SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – A Grant County man and his two sons died in an apparent murder-suicide on the Shepherd University campus Saturday afternoon, State Police said.
Douglas W. Pennington, 49, shot sons Logan P. Pennington, 26, and Benjamin M. Pennington, 24, multiple times, then shot himself once in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver, Trooper K.W. Martin said. The shootings occurred about 2 p.m. in the parking lot of Thacher Residence Hall.
The elder Pennington traveled to the campus in the Eastern Panhandle to visit his sons, but Martin said investigators still hope to find out why Pennington shot his sons and whether he intended to kill them when he came to the campus.
University spokeswoman Valerie Owens identified the younger Penningtons as seniors at Shepherd. They were from Scherr in Grant County, she said.
Douglas Pennington was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, Md. Logan Pennington was pronounced dead at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson. Benjamin Pennington was pronounced dead at City Hospital in Martinsburg.
"We are stunned to hear about this terrible tragedy," University President David Dunlop said in a prepared statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims."
Dunlop said there is no ongoing threat to students.
Owens described the campus as quieter than usual this weekend because many students have left for the Labor Day holiday. About one quarter of Shepherd's 4,000 students live in campus residence halls and apartments.
"There aren't many folks here," Owens said. "I can't give you a good gauge. When I spoke to folks earlier, there were some students in the crowd and it's somber."
Junior student Cory Rieck, 20, told The Journal of Martinsburg the shootings were as shocking at the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "I have stuff to do today, but it doesn't seem important anymore," Rieck said.
University counselors were made available to students Saturday and additional counseling sessions are planned for Sunday and Monday.
Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Kipetz said students who witnessed the shootings were offered counseling right away. "We had students telephoning and texting each other," she told the Journal. "We wanted students to know that they were safe."