Family, friends honor fallen Bridgewater College officers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The two Bridgewater College officers killed in the line of duty last week were remembered as heroes by friends, family, law enforcement, and members of the Bridgewater community Wednesday.

Around 3,000 people gathered Wednesday morning at JMU’s Atlantic Union Bank Center for the memorial service honoring fallen Bridgewater College campus police officer John Painter and campus safety officer Vashon ‘JJ’ Jefferson. The two were gunned down Feb. 1 after responding to a suspicious man on the Bridgewater College campus.

Painter and Jefferson were known as the ‘dynamic duo’ on campus, and speakers at the service remembered the two for their bravery.

“Among all of the heroes this world has ever had, there is not one admired more than the guy I call Dad,” Courtney Painter, Painter’s daughter, said as she recited a poem. “Perhaps not like the others, he doesn’t look for praise. He’s heroic in his special way – in this thoughtful caring ways.”

Painter was remembered by his former colleagues as a devoted father, avid hunter and law enforcement officer.

“If ever a man was meant to be a police officer, it was John Painter,” Charles Lawhorne, who served as the Grottoes police chief before Painter said.

Jefferson was remembered as a devoted husband, dear friend and son.

“He leaves a legacy because he was intentional to live in the moment and make the most of the moments God had given Him,” pastor Michael Miller said.

Painter’s nephews, Jacob and Austin, performed a series of songs including “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and an original piece.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin also expressed his condolences.

“Given their gregarious relationship, I can only imagine how many students lives they touched,” he said. “The smiles they brought to people’s faces. They will be missed.”

Many of Painter’s friends offered their own personal reflections.

“If there’s anyone in this crowd needing to find a hero for themselves, I suggest you not look at a professional athlete, but to the dynamic duo,” Hugh Kline, Painter’s family friend said. “They filled their oath of protecting others. They went towards the danger and threat without hesitation. That is the definition of a true hero.”

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