Grand jury to hear Virginia college shooting suspect’s case

HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — The man charged in the slayings of two campus officers at a private Virginia college told an arresting officer that he shot the men, asking for their names so he could apologize to their families, the officer testified Wednesday.

Alexander Campbell, 28, who is charged with murder and other charges in the February shooting at Bridgewater College, appeared at a preliminary hearing where a judge determined he was mentally fit to stand trial, news outlets reported. Harrisonburg-Rockingham General District Court Judge John Hart scheduled the case to be heard by a grand jury on Nov. 21.

Campbell is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated murder of a police officer, and other offenses in the deaths of campus police officer John Painter, 55, and college safety officer J.J. Jefferson, 48, friends who were known on campus as the “dynamic duo.”

Campbell, who has not entered a plea, is being held without bond. Campbell was a student at the school from 2013 to 2017 and had competed on the cross country team.

Attorney Gene Hart, who is representing Campbell, previously said Campbell may suffer from undiagnosed schizophrenia and would undergo a mental health evaluation. It’s not clear if that took place. His mother, Cheryl Campbell, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in February that Campbell is mentally ill but did not elaborate. Hart did not present evidence Wednesday and declined to comment after the hearing.

The shooting happened Feb. 1 when the officers were called to an area outside the college’s Memorial Hall for a report of a suspicious man on campus. The judge heard from a student who described seeing Painter and Jefferson confront Campbell, who then fired several shots, and from law enforcement officers who described the officers’ injuries and the capture of Campbell on an island in the nearby North River.

Harrisonburg police officer Brooke Wetherell recalled that as she arrested Campbell, he told her he had been shot by an officer who he had shot and wanted to know the officers’ names “so I can apologize to their families.” Wetherell said Campbell appeared to be coherent.

After the shooting, police found Campbell’s possessions, including food and ammunition, in a basement room of Memorial Hall, according to Heather Marshall of Virginia State Police. The door handle to the room was removed and there was an electronic doorstop, Marshal said. Police also found a journal that indicated Campbell was showering at the gym and doing laundry in a dorm. The journal included his chores and places he visited on campus.

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