Alexander Wyatt Campbell, a 27-year-old Virginia man, was charged with the Bridgewater shooting that left two law enforcement officers dead earlier this week. 

Police said Campbell was reported acting “suspiciously” on the campus of Bridgewater College, a small, private liberal arts school near Harrisonburg where he was formerly a student, on Tuesday afternoon. 

When two campus security officials confronted him, Campbell shot them both, according to authorities. Campus police officer John Painter, 55, and campus security guard JJ Jefferson, 48, both died from their injuries, reports added. 

Police said the alleged shooter fled school grounds but was apprehended a short while later and treated for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound before being booked in jail. Campbell stands accused of two counts of murder and three related felonies. 

During his arraignment in court on Wednesday, his mother told reporters that Campbell suffers from mental health issues but declined to elaborate. 

Details Emerge in Bridgewater Shooting

According to statements from college officials and Virginia State Police, Bridgewater employees phoned campus security to report a man acting suspiciously in an off-limits area near the Memorial Hall building just after 1 p.m. on Tuesday. 

Painter and Jefferson responded to the call. After a “brief interaction,” state police said the suspect opened fire at the officers, striking them both before fleeing the scene on foot. Officials would announce hours later that both security officers died from their wounds. 

Police said Alexander Wyatt Campbell killed officers JJ Jefferson, left, and John Painter, right, in the Virginia Bridgewater shooting Tuesday.
Police said Alexander Wyatt Campbell killed officers JJ Jefferson, left, and John Painter, right, in the Virginia Bridgewater shooting Tuesday. Photo credit: Bridgewater College

Moments later, the college sent out an alert of an active shooter on campus and issued a shelter-in-place order. Meanwhile, school security, local police and sheriff’s deputies, state troopers and even federal authorities began setting up a perimeter and combing the area for any sign of the gunman.  

Before long, law enforcement had eyes on a suspect. “A man fitting the shooter’s description was located on Riverside Drive off campus in the town of Bridgewater,” just a few hundred feet south of Memorial Hall, said Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller at a press conference Tuesday. 

“He then waded through the river and onto an island in the North River,” where he was arrested, Geller added. 

The detainee was quickly identified as Alexander Wyatt Campbell, a 27-year-old Hanover man who had attended Bridgewater as a student from 2013 to 2017, according to local reports

Alexander Wyatt Campbell faces felony murder charges after police said he killed two officers in the Bridgewater shooting Tuesday.
Alexander Wyatt Campbell faces felony murder charges after police said he killed two officers in the Bridgewater shooting Tuesday. Photo credit: VA State Police

Campbell was treated for a “non-life-threatening” gunshot injury after he was taken into custody. Police said they are still working to determine if the alleged shooter was shot by authorities or if the wound was self-inflicted, though they did not report exchanging gunfire with Campbell during the pursuit. 

State police also said they recovered “multiple firearms” on and around campus, believed to belong to Campbell. 

Alexander Wyatt Campbell Goes to Court

After being treated for his injury, Campbell was booked in a Rockingham County jail and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated murder of multiple persons, aggravated murder of multiple persons within a three-year period, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. 

If convicted of the murder charges, the 27-year-old faces the possibility of life behind bars. Investigators did not offer an apparent motive for Campbell’s alleged crimes. 

Campbell was arraigned in a district court via video conference Wednesday, where defense attorney Gene Hart was appointed his counsel. Hart said his client would seek a psychological evaluation, though he did not elaborate further. 

At his arraignment Wednesday, Bridgewater shooting suspect Alexander Wyatt Campbell was brought up on felony murder charges.
At his arraignment Wednesday, Bridgewater shooting suspect Alexander Wyatt Campbell was brought up on felony murder charges. Photo credit: Google Maps

Meanwhile, more than 100 miles away in his hometown of Hanover, his mother Cheryl Campbell told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that her son suffers from mental health issues. 

“My son is mentally ill and he did something that I could not control and no one could come to help him,” she told the newspaper Wednesday. “I’m sorry for what has happened. I could not prevent it.”

Asked to be more specific, Cheryl Campbell said, “I just don’t even know how to respond to that. As a parent, I have not been able to help him because he’s a legal adult.”

She continued, through tears: “This is a very hard time for Wyatt and his family and for the families that he has affected. It is not about gun control. It is not. And I need you as a journalist to get that out there. It is about mental illness and how we have no control over that, the way society is right now.” 

“I can’t help my son.”