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3 killed in Shepherd shooting

Father shoots two sons, then himself

Father shoots two sons, then himself

September 03, 2006|by DON AINES

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - Two brothers, both seniors at Shepherd University, were shot dead in a West Campus parking lot by their father, who then turned the gun on himself, according to West Virginia State Police.

Logan P. Pennington, 26, and his 24-year-old brother, Benjamin M., were killed in the 2:04 p.m. shooting in the parking lot between Thatcher Hall and the Butcher Center, police said. Douglas W. Pennington, 49, then killed himself, police said.

The case still was under investigation, and Sgt. C.C. Morton said a motive in the murders and suicide had not been determined.

Police said all three men were from Grant County, W.Va. Valerie Owens, the university's director of external affairs, said the brothers were from the town of Scherr.

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"One guy was trying to get away, and I think he was shot in the hand and then in the back," said one student who saw the shootings from his second-floor dormitory room at Thatcher Hall, but refused to give his name. He said he heard a shot, then looked out the window.

The student said he saw a man wearing a camouflage hat and who appeared to be in his 40s shoot a younger man who was fleeing. After that, the gunman walked over to another man who already was next to a car "and shot him in the head."

The older man then shot himself with the black revolver he used to shoot the other men, the student said.

"I was in my room, and all I heard was like firecrackers going off ... I blew it off," freshman D.J. Fredman said. Within minutes, however, his roommate, who was in Falling Waters, W.Va., called him to see if he was all right.

Fredman said someone else in the dorm had called a friend, and word quickly spread by cell phones until it got back to him.

"I figured it was just a guy who had passed out," Kevin Ford, a sophomore living on the second floor of Thatcher Hall, said of what he saw when he looked out the window. He had been in the shower, and was unaware a shooting had taken place until police came to the scene.

Police said Douglas Pennington had traveled from Grant County on Saturday to visit his sons. For unexplained reasons, he shot both of them with a .38-caliber revolver.

Police said all three were taken to medical facilities, where they were pronounced dead, but Morton said they all were dead at the scene.

Firefighters holding up blankets surrounded one body as it was covered in a white sheet, placed on a gurney and loaded into an ambulance.

On a Web site for college students on which Benjamin Pennington had a page, he listed his favorite activities as "watching movies and television, listening to music, just hanging out and having a cold beer." He wrote that his major was sociology.

"Ben was one of the nicest guys anyone would ever meet. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He was intelligent and witty," friend Neena Roderick wrote after being contacted through Benjamin's MySpace Web page. "Logan was more quiet than Ben, and very laid back. He was a very funny person, as well."

Students gathered in a light mist, kept at a distance from the bodies by police and rescue personnel. Prior to the names of the Penningtons being released by police, a number of students at the scene said they did not know who the victims were.

Owens said there were relatively few students on campus because of the Labor Day weekend.

"We are stunned to hear about this terrible tragedy ... We want to emphasize that there is no continuing threat to any other students," University President David L. Dunlop said in a written statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims."

Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Kipetz said she recalled having met the brothers about two years ago. She did not know them personally, but said she remembered the meeting because it was unusual to have two brothers living in the same dormitory room.

In decades working for the university, Owens said nothing like Saturday's shootings ever had occurred. Owens said she did not have information on the Penningtons' majors, or whether they had been living on campus at the time of the shooting.

Kipetz said students needing help in dealing with the incident were meeting with counselors Saturday night in the Butcher Center. Arrangements were being made for counseling today and Monday as well, Owens said.

Student Government Association President Nicole Krause said students appeared to be bearing up well in the wake of the shootings, but she expected it would be most difficult for first-year students who started school two weeks ago.

"I tell them this campus is really safe and I still believe that," said Krause, who also serves as a campus tour guide for new students.

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