BRIDGEWATER, Va. – Two officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice are being remembered fondly after Tuesday’s shooting at Bridgewater College.
Law enforcement honored the lives of Campus Safety Officer J.J. Jefferson and Campus Police Officer John Painter during a procession to Roanoke along Interstate 81 overnight. And on Wednesday, students gathered at the small liberal arts school just outside of Harrisonburg to pay their respects.
People have been stopping by Memorial Hall, where the shooting happened, all afternoon, leaving flowers and cards for the fallen officers.
Students shared wonderful stories about the two officers and the impact they made on the campus community.
One student told 10 News that Painter was always helping her with car problems. Another laughed about a time Jefferson got her out of a parking ticket. These are the ways students hope the officers will be remembered.
A day after the incident, students are mourning and trying to understand how something so horrific could have happened.
“You hear about it all the time, but you never think it will happen to you and your school. Just trying to process and go through all the emotions to make sure we can heal,” said Savannah Scott, a junior at Bridgewater College.
Scott and her friend Anton Kopti were studying in the library when word spread of an active shooter and panic set in.
“I went into a room. People were panicking and calling their parents saying, ‘I love you if I don’t see you again,’” recalled Kopti, a junior at Bridgewater College.
It would be several more hours of hiding out and wondering before students would learn two beloved campus police officers were shot and killed.
“I used to see them last semester in the Carter Center. I used to play the piano at night. They’d come to close up the church. We had a bond between me and them,” said Kopti.
Students spoke of the officers’ kindness and willingness to help others at all costs. Several of them dropped by Memorial Hall on Wednesday to grieve and join the community choir in song.
“Seeing the community come together and how everyone talks about them, it makes me feel like I did know them,” said Scott.
“I appreciate their sacrifice. We really all love them and we’re going to miss them. Campus is not whole without them. I wish their families wellness and rest,” said Kopti.
10 News also spoke with professors who came to the memorial site on Wednesday. They say they’re meeting to figure out how to talk about this with students and how to make sure students feel safe going forward.
For now, everyone says the most important thing is honoring the lives of J.J. Jefferson and John Painter.