2 shots, man arrested after shooting Virginia college

One person is in custody after an active shooter was reported on the Bridgewater College campus outside of Harrisonburg, Va. in the Shenandoah Valley on Tuesday.

A campus police officer and a campus security officer were killed Tuesday afternoon in a shooting at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia.

Authorities have a man in custody, but there are no further details on the suspect. A press conference is scheduled for 8 p.m.

In a memo to the campus community Tuesday evening, college president David Bushman identified the victims as campus police officer John Painter and campus security officer JJ Jefferson.

“This is a sad and gloomy day for Bridgewater College,” Bushman wrote. “I know we all have so many questions and not many answers. One thing I do know, however, is that we will rally together and support each other as we move forward from this day forward.

Adrielle Benner, a student at Bridgewater, was taking a test inside Memorial Hall when she heard a gunshot outside between 1 and 1.20 p.m.

“It didn’t really stick with me at first, because…I think it’s like a race started because the track was right there,” she recalled.

Benner, who was sitting by a window, looked outside and saw a body on the ground about 15 to 20 feet away.

“Looks like he was shot in the chest,” she recalled, and a man in a blue jacket and pants stood over him. “…You could hear the guy screaming when he was shot; you could hear every shot.

Another student, Benner said, saw the shooter shoot the man on the ground again before fleeing.

When gunshots rang out again, she recalled, it was “fight or flight”.

“Because we didn’t know if he would walk into the building or like what was going to happen next,” she said, “so it was almost every man for himself. Like we were all walking out from the classroom running, trying to find a place to hide.

The group of 10 to 16 students found themselves locked in a bathroom, with a door pressed against it, for an “excruciating” 40 minutes, she said.

“We were doing our best to stay quiet and contact our families and everyone,” said Benner, who had to text his mom and dad from someone else’s phone.

“What else do you say in this situation?” she asked rhetorically. “Just to reassure them that I was fine and in a locked place, but we didn’t know what was going on or what was going to happen next.”

A shelter-in-place order was issued around 1:30 p.m. About three hours later, the school gave the go-ahead.

In a statement, the college said local, state and federal authorities responded to a reported active shooter on campus around 1:20 p.m.

“The initial report came that two officers had been shot and the armed suspect had fled the scene,” the statement said. “State and local law enforcement immediately responded to campus and launched a massive search operation for the suspect.”

The suspect was arrested around 1:55 p.m., Virginia State Police said.

Governor Glenn Youngkin said he was made aware of the situation: “I will continue to monitor the situation in conjunction with law enforcement,” Youngkin tweeted.

Bridgewater College is a small liberal arts school located about 10 miles southwest of downtown Harrisonburg. It has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 1,500 students.

In his note Tuesday, Bushman told the campus community “there is no one way to grieve, no right way for all of us.”

As we mourn individually and together, all previously scheduled classes and events will be canceled tonight and tomorrow. All staff offices will be closed tomorrow, but everyone is welcome on campus so we can begin to heal and care for each other.

Will Vitka of WTOP contributed to this report.

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