Man pleads guilty in deaths of 2 officers at Virginia college in 2022 and is sentenced to life

HARRISONBURG, Va. — A man scheduled to stand trial in 2022 for the shooting of two popular police officers at a Virginia university pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.

Alexander Campbell, 29, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Bridgewater College Officer John Painter and Campus Safety Officer JJ Jefferson, news media reported. Campbell also pleaded guilty to two charges of using a firearm during a crime.

A Rockingham County Circuit Court judge accepted the terms of a plea deal and handed down two life sentences, plus six years in prison. A trial was scheduled for April.

Painter, 55, and Jefferson, 48, were friends known on campus as the “dynamic duo.” Campbell was a student at the school from 2013 to 2017 and had competed on the cross country team.

The shooting occurred on February 1, 2022, when officers were called to an area outside the university’s Memorial Hall for a report of a suspicious man on campus.

At a hearing later that year, where a judge determined Campbell was mentally fit to stand trial, a student described seeing Painter and Jefferson confront Campbell, who then fired several shots. The judge also heard from an officer who arrested Campbell. The officer said Campbell seemed coherent and wanted to know the officers’ names so he could apologize to their families.

After Campbell entered his plea, Rockingham County Prosecutor Marsha Garst presented the evidence she would have used in a trial, noting that Campbell had been living illegally in the basement of Memorial Hall for four days before the shooting. He had used the revolver to kill the two officers, two shotguns, an air rifle and a lockpick, she said.

Relatives of the two officers made impact statements before Campbell was sentenced, recounting how their lives were affected by their deaths. The deal was reached in part to prevent the victims’ families from having to endure the pain of a lengthy trial, Garst said. They were consulted during the negotiations and agreed to the deal, she said.

Bridgewater is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, about 200 miles southwest of Washington, DC