On September 2, 2006, Douglas Pennington, age 49, drove two hours from his home and entered the campus of Shepherd University in West Virginia. He was ostensibly there to visit his two sons, Logan Pennington, age 26, and Benjamin Pennington, age 24, who were both seniors and roommates at the university. Instead, at approximately 2 p.m., the elder Pennington used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot his two sons outside between two buildings before shooting himself. Witnesses say they saw Pennington fire at one son, then shoot the other as he tried to run away. Students reported seeing the three bodies lying on the ground as rescuers attempted to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation. All three were taken to nearby medical facilities, where they were pronounced dead. State Police Sergeant C. C. Morton initially labeled the event the outcome of a family issue. University President David L. Dunlop announced that the entire community was stunned, yet also spoke out quickly to convince students there was no other threat. Counseling was offered to students who were interested in seeing someone to discuss the emotional ramifications of the matter.
Pennington left several notes in the car that he drove to the university, and investigators found a notebook in his home. In both, he discussed internal battles, feelings of guilt and pain, and his love for his family. Pennington wrote that he always lost those he loved and feared he would lose his family as well. He articulated that he was “forced” to do something to them before someone else could, writing, “I must do the unthinkable.” He had been under the care of a mental health physician, Dr. Michael Ehlers, at Western Maryland Health Systems, but had missed two appointments with Dr. Ehlers. His mother, Mary Pennington, told police that her son had been experiencing negative side effects from his medication and that the medication seemed to make him “senile.” Family members also said they had tried to have Pennington hospitalized for his mental illness, but their efforts had failed. Others noticed that Pennington was acting strangely and had visited his sons more frequently leading up to the shootings. Pennington purchased his gun only two days before the shooting incident.
- Laris, M., & Samuels, R. (2006, September 3). Man kills self, two sons at university in W.Va. Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/02/AR2006090201223.html
- Smoot, N. (2007, March 20). Shepherd shooting motive revealed. Retrieved from http://ssristories.com/show.php?item=1663