Bridgewater College community mourns fallen heroes, General Secretary reaches out with condolences on behalf of the Church of the Brethren

The Bridgewater (Va.) College community is mourning the deaths of police officer John Painter and campus safety officer Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson, who were shot and killed on the college campus on Feb. 1. The two men were coworkers and close friends. Media report that a former student has been charged in their deaths.

Church of the Brethren general secretary David A. Steele has reached out to Bridgewater College president David W. Bushman with a letter of condolence.

“Our church and its members reach out with Christian caring during this time of grief for the officers’ families, the college’s students, faculty, and staff, as well as the town and the entire community that has been touched by this tragedy,” the letter said, in part. “We realize that you are mourning a deeply personal loss, while also walking through a time of great fear and anxiety that will have repercussions for some time to come–in particular for students and staff and their families.”

Find a copy of the full letter below.

Classes at Bridgewater are canceled through Sunday, and the college is making mental health counseling and qualified clinicians available to all students without charge, reported the Daily News-Record in an article about the many ways the Bridgewater community is grieving.

On Wednesday morning, students, staff, alumni, and community members gathered to sing the school’s alma mater, “Bridgewater Fair.” Choral director Ryan Keebaugh led the singing of the alma mater inside the Concert Hall at the Carter Center, and again outdoors on the Learning Commons. Find videos of the singing of the alma mater on the college’s Facebook page at

The Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministry has shared a request for prayer, scripture, or encouraging words for the young adults affected by the tragedy at Bridgewater College. Sharing may be posted on the Facebook page for Young Adults of the Church of the Brethren at

Bridgewater Church of the Brethren is hosting an ecumenical prayer gathering for the college and the town on Saturday, Feb. 5, starting at 6 p.m. The event will include singing, prayer, and reflection in the sanctuary at 420 College View Drive, and will be live-streamed at, said an announcement from Shenandoah District. Participants at the in-person event are asked to wear masks. For more information, email pastor David R. Miller at

A release from the college announced a law enforcement procession along Interstate 81 on the afternoon of Feb. 3 to return the two officers home from Roanoke. Funeral arrangements are currently pending, and the families of both officers are asking for respect and privacy during this time, the release said.

The college has established the John Painter and Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson Memorial Student Support Fund with its specific uses to be finalized in consultation with members of the Bridgewater College Campus Police Department. Find the release, with memorial statements for both men, at


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