BRIDGEWATER, Va. — A special church service was held Wednesday evening to honor the two Bridgewater College officers who were killed in a shootout on campus on Tuesday.
School President David W. Bushman identified the officers killed as Campus Police Officer John Painter, 55, and Campus Security Officer JJ Jefferson, 48.
He said the campus mourns the loss of well-known and beloved officers. In a statement, Bushman said the two were known as “the dynamic duo” and that Painter was the best man at Jefferson’s wedding this year.
A few dozen people as well as a few officers showed up, looking for answers in faith.
Painter was previously the chief of police for the town of Grottoes. He began his career there as an officer in 2001 and served as chief of police from 2006 until his retirement in 2019.
Grottoes Mayor Jo Plaster described him as a community policeman – a warm, caring and approachable figure.
“Even though he held this high authority figure as a leader, you never felt intimidated, you always felt like you could talk to him.”
For Plaster, and many others, words don’t come easily right now. Many are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that has taken place.
“He touched a lot of people’s lives. And he touched us in a very, very good way. And it’s officers like him that you really, really appreciate.”
It is a community that now looks to each other and their faith to cope, to heal and to try to understand each other.
“We are shaken by the experience. But yet we are strengthened by your presence with us, even now.”
On Thursday, a procession of law enforcement returning Officers Painter and Jefferson from Roanoke will take place around 2 p.m. along Interstate 81.