PENNSAUKEN, N.J. – A man shot his three sons, fatally wounding two and critically injuring the third, and set their tidy southern New Jersey home afire before police killed him, authorities said Friday.
Police started receiving calls shortly after 10:30 p.m. Thursday when two young men were found on different streets near the home in Pennsauken, said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. A house fire was reported a short time later.
Authorities initially didn't know whether the fire was connected to the shootings, Laughlin said. When police arrived at the split-level brick home, a man in a sun room who was holding a lighter, a can of gasoline and a handgun charged at three officers, he said.
The man was shot and killed. Laughlin said it wasn't clear how many officers fired at the gunman, who was identified as 54-year-old Alfred Moton Sr.
The body of Moton's 12-year-old son Steven, was found in the house, while his 16- and 18-year-old sons were found on the street, Laughlin said. The 18-year-old, Aflred Moton Jr., who had just started his first term at Rowan University in Glassboro, where he was a biology major and commuter student, was later pronounced dead.
The 16-year-old, Charles Moton, said by those who knew him to be a student at Camden Catholic High School was in critical but stable condition at Cooper University Hosptial in Camden.
The younger boy, Steven Moton, was a student at St. Stephen's Roman Catholic school, two blocks away from the home.
A parent of a St. Stephen's student, Jessie Burgos, said the school's regularly monthly Mass on Friday morning was dedicated to the boy, whose two older brothers also had attended the school.
She said students cried as they were told that a peer was dead.
Later, principal Patricia Higgins would say only, "The family has our sympathy and our prayers."
Burgos parked half a block from the burned-out Moton home on Friday. Though she didn't know the family, she'd brought a candle to place in front of the house.
But crime-tape extended around several nearby houses, and she could not find a place to leave her small memorial.
Authorities said they were trying to determine a motive for the killing, which happened while the mother of the victims was working the night shift at a hospital.
Neighbor Jim Nesmith, who lived two houses from the Motons, said the family was the one on the well-kept block of mid-20th century homes that didn't interact much with the others.
Nesmith, 73, said he had watched the children play in the yard and come and go from school over the years, though.
"I just couldn't image something like that happening," he said. "They had all their life in front of them."
An elderly man was in the badly burned home, but Laughlin said he was not seriously injured.
The Camden County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing the shooting by police under its standard policy.
Pennsauken is a town of about 35,000 people, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia.
(This version corrects the age of the youngest victim to 12 instead of 14.)