Pa. university police officer fatally shot during pursuit

The shooting happened while the officer was pursuing a suspect in a robbery at a nearby convenience store, university officials said

Duty Death: Christopher David Fitzgerald - [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]

End of Service: 02/18/2023

By Susan Snyder
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — A Temple University police officer who "tried to intervene in a carjacking" was shot and killed Saturday night near 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue near the campus border, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.

Temple said this was the first time in the school's history that a university law enforcement officer had been killed in the line of duty. The fatal shooting shocked the North Philadelphia campus where safety concerns have been mounting.

Police gather at Temple University Hospital following a fatal shooting of a Temple University police officer near the campus on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Police gather at Temple University Hospital following a fatal shooting of a Temple University police officer near the campus on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

The name of the officer was being withheld, but sources identified him as Christopher David Fitzgerald, 31, the son of a prominent police official, Joel Fitzgerald, who spent 17 years with the Philadelphia Police Department before ascending to higher-profile law enforcement positions across the country.

"We are heartbroken tonight," said Temple president Jason Wingard, choking back tears. Said Ken Kaiser, the school's senior vice president and chief operating officer, "It just shakes everybody to the core." He said that in his 32 years at the school, this was the first incident of a fatal shooting of a campus police officer.

The campus police force "is in shock," said union president Alec Shaffer. "There are not words that can express our deep sorrow."

The shooting first was reported around 7 p.m. and no arrests had been made. Details of what precipitated the incident were sparse and conflicting.

In a statement, the university said a robbery occurred at a convenience store at 15th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Outlaw, however, said "the officer tried to intervene during a carjacking and was shot."

The officer was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital.

Mayor Jim Kenney said he was "heartbroken and outraged," and Gov. Josh Shapiro said that he and his wife were "devastated" by the news.

Other officials called for a war on weapons.

"With every tragedy it becomes clearer that there are far too many guns on the streets of Philadelphia," City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said in a statement, "and that we must redouble our efforts to remove them from our city."

Similarly, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan said: "It is well past time for meaningful, systemic gun reform. As we mourn for this officer and his loved ones, we must organize and act in order to stop this horrific crisis."

Temple police officer Rossman Shaffer, the secretary of the Temple police union, said the university needed to provide its police with more resources. He said Saturday's incident "was predictable. He did not have a partner to patrol one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city."

Safety concerns have been mounting in Temple's neighborhood since November 2021, when Temple student Samuel Collington was fatally shot less than two blocks from a campus building during a botched carjacking incident.

Armed robberies and a string of home invasions have occurred in neighborhoods where students reside. Some parents have even hired private security to patrol those areas.

Temple said it has taken steps to address safety, including adding police officers. But the Temple University Police Association has been critical of the university's safety response, saying it does not have enough officers.

Saturday night's shooting is the first fatal shooting of an on-duty police officer in the city since the killing of Philadelphia Police Cpl. James O'Connor in 2020.

Prior to that, the last fatal on-duty shooting was in March 2015, when Officer Robert Wilson III was gunned down while trying to thwart an armed robbery at a GameStop in North Philadelphia.

The last fatal shooting of an officer in the Temple University area was in 2008, about five blocks from where Saturday's shooting occurred. Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Highway Patrol Unit, was fatally gunned down after a traffic stop turned into a foot chase.

Staff writers Ximena Conde, Kristen A. Graham, and Barbara Laker contributed to this article.

(c)2023 The Philadelphia Inquirer
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service


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