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Suspect who allegedly killed 2 officers in shooting at Virginia college was former student athlete

By Travis Caldwell and Jenn Selva, CNN

The man accused in the Tuesday shooting deaths of two police officers at Bridgewater College in Virginia was a former student-athlete, according to the school.

Alexander Wyatt Campbell, 27, attended Bridgewater College from 2013-2017 and was member of the track and cross-country teams, Logan Bogert, a communications coordinator for Bridgewater College, told CNN.

Campbell has been formally charged with five felonies including murder and a firearms charge in connection with the shootings, according to Harrisonburg/Rockingham County General District Court records.

Campbell appeared in court for the first time Wednesday afternoon. He is scheduled to appear in court again on February 16. Campbell’s court-appointed attorney, Gene Hart, had no comment about the court hearing when contacted by CNN.

Campus Police Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer JJ Jefferson, who were close friends as well as colleagues, were killed Tuesday afternoon while responding to emergency calls of a suspicious man at the college, police said.

The alleged gunman fled the campus after shooting the officers and was apprehended shortly after, police said.

The campus police officers encountered Campbell in response to an emergency call of a suspicious man on the grounds near Memorial Hall at about 1:20 p.m. Tuesday, Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said at a Tuesday night news conference. College employees made the call after noticing the man in an area off limits.

When Jefferson and Painter arrived, they had a brief interaction with Campbell, who then shot them both and ran away.

Authorities from multiple surrounding agencies responded to the area and immediately began searching for the suspect, Geller said.

“A man fitting the shooter’s description was located on Riverside Drive off campus in the town of Bridgewater,” Geller said. “He then waded through the river and onto an island in the North River,” where he was taken into custody without further incident.

Suspect faces four felony counts

Campbell had a non-life-threatening gunshot wound and was treated at a hospital after the arrest, Geller said. Police are investigating whether his gunshot wound was self-inflicted or a result of gunfire exchanged with the campus officers.

“Multiple firearms” associated with Campbell were recovered on-campus and off-campus, she said.

Police would not comment Tuesday on whether Campbell had any ties to the college. His last known address is in Ashland, police said, which is just north of Richmond and around 100 miles southeast of the shooting.

Campbell has been charged with two felony counts of capital murder, one felony count of first-degree murder and one felony charge of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, police said.

He is being held without bond at the Rockingham County Jail.

Student describes sheltering in place

Bridgewater College student Alex Hulleman was in a classroom when he heard eight gunshots, he told CNN New Day on Wednesday morning.

“Everybody immediately knows, even someone like myself who doesn’t have much experience with firearms, we know it is a gunshot, and we all get on the ground,” he said.

Some students barricaded the door, he said. They heard someone screaming in pain outside and sheltered in place for several minutes, not sure what was going to happen, he said.

“Gradually officers began to arrive at the scene and we started to look out of the windows and see the officers and our professor told us … don’t look out there if you’re not going to handle it,” Hulleman said. “They covered the bodies with sheets, though, but we could see from our vantage point, we could see the officers down.”

Officers were well known by those on campus

David Bushman, president of Bridgewater College, called the shootings an “unspeakable tragedy” in a message on the school’s Facebook page.

“These officers were close friends, known to many of us as the ‘dynamic duo.’ John was JJ’s best man in his wedding this year. They were beloved by students, faculty, and staff. I hurt for their families and loved ones, as I know we all do,” Bushman said.

At the news conference Tuesday night, Bushman said, “They were very well known to students, they were always seen together, their relationship was very close as well.”

Hulleman said the two officers were “probably the most friendly people on campus.”

“No one I know can say a bad word about them,” the student said. “Even some people who got caught with (drugs) or alcohol and got charged by them … the next week they’re back in the cafeteria, joking with each other and teasing each other.”

Wednesday classes have been canceled, Bushman said.

The college is offering students mental health support, the school said in a statement. The campus chaplain also plans to hold gatherings on Wednesday for the community. Earlier Wednesday, the college went on Twitter to ask members of its community to gather on campus to sing the school’s alma mater.

Bridgewater, which is located about 60 miles northwest of Charlottesville, has a student body of approximately 1,500 students.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Josh Campbell, Caroll Alvarado, Chris Boyette and Chenelle Woody contributed to this report.

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