This message was sent to the Shenandoah University community on Tuesday, Feb. 1
Dear Shenandoah University community,
I am writing with heartbreaking news. I know you are all aware of the events that unfolded this afternoon at Bridgewater College where two officers were shot in an active shooter incident. SU enjoys a long-standing relationship with Bridgewater and we count those who work and study there as cherished and admired colleagues, friends, co-creators and competitors. I have sent Bridgewater’s president a note expressing the Shenandoah community’s sorrow and support.
It is with profound sadness that I share a Shenandoah connection to the tragedy that took place today at Bridgewater. We were devastated to learn that one of our former and beloved Shenandoah University Department of Public Safety officers Vashon “J.J.” Jefferson was killed today in the shooting at Bridgewater, where he had been serving as a campus safety officer.
J.J. and another Bridgewater College campus police officer, John Painter, both died in the shooting. A suspect has been taken into custody. Bridgewater President David W. Bushman called today a “sad and dark day for Bridgewater College.” Painter and Jefferson were known to many as the “dynamic duo,” Bushman said, noting that John had served as best man at J.J.’s wedding.
J.J. worked at Shenandoah from 2012 to 2018, and was promoted to sergeant in 2013. J.J. received a Wilkins Award from SU in 2017 in recognition of his initiatives to re-envision campus safety as focusing on student and community relationships. He was known for walking every inch of main campus throughout the evenings, meeting students and getting to know them well. Over social media, he is being remembered by SU colleagues and students as having a commanding presence, a warm smile, and a laugh that would echo down the hallways. He would never just secure a building in the evening; instead, he would greet each person he encountered with genuine care and interest while securing buildings — and whenever he had a free moment, he would stop by SU games or rehearsals to cheer on our students.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Shannon Oates Jefferson, J.J.’s wife and an alumna of Shenandoah who graduated in 2013.
I ask that you please hold Shannon, the rest of J.J.’s family and friends, and the entire Bridgewater College community in your thoughts. Over the coming days in particular, please be sure to seek support as you need it.
The Prayer Chapel off the lobby of the Goodson Chapel-Recital Hall is open Wednesday, Feb. 2. You are invited to reflect, pray, meditate, or simply be still and candles are available to light. If you are feeling a sense of uncertainty or grief today, you are not alone. The Office of Spiritual Life staff will be present until 9 p.m.
Take care of yourselves and those around you,