A free-lance news photographer and former University of Maryland student was found shot to death yesterday on the College Park campus, several hundred yards from the Cole Field House where his friends were attending commencement ceremonies.
Authorities said it appeared that David Ben Froehlich, 27, shot himself in the mouth with a small-caliber rifle two hours before his body was found at 10:40 a.m. outside McKeldin Library on the campus mall.
The rifle was next to the body. Also nearby were a note and Mr. Froehlich's camera on a tripod, aimed away from the spot where his body was found, said Lt. Don E. Smith, a campus police spokesman. Police would not divulge the contents of the note.
The death stunned friends and co-workers on the Diamondback, the university newspaper. Some learned of the death in mid-afternoon as they stood backstage at the Tawes Theatre preparing for the School of Journalism's commencement exercises.
"Half of us broke into tears," said Lou Ferrara, a graduating senior and friend who had worked with Mr. Froehlich.
Lieutenant Smith said Mr. Froehlich was a staff photographer for the Diamondback even though he was not registered as a student in the spring semester.
Mr. Froehlich shared a Greenbelt apartment with two roommates.
He had been free-lancing for area newspapers and recently won acceptance into a summer photography workshop in Maine, friends said.
"Dave was an artist. He loved images," said Ivan L. Penn, a close friend who was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper last year, when Mr. Froehlich was the photo editor.
According to Mr. Penn, his friend had been troubled by the November death of his father -- a science editor and former president of the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists -- as well as events and plans in his own life, and was "constantly trying to sort things out for himself.
"A lot of his friends were graduating, particularly from the journalism school," Mr. Penn said. "I think that had a tremendous impact on him, trying to figure out what to do with his own life."