Philadelphia, PA – A Temple University police officer was fatally shot in the head while attempting to apprehend a robbery suspect on Saturday night.
Temple University Police Department Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, responded to the area of Montgomery Avenue and 17th Street at approximately 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 after receiving a report of a robbery that occurred at a nearby convenience store, WCAU reported.
According to an arrest affidavit, the suspect, later identified as 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer, took off running when Officer Fitzgerald arrived at the scene, FOX News reported.
Security footage showed the officer in a physical encounter with the suspect just before Pfeffer pulled out a handgun and shot him in the head, according to the news outlet.
The arrest affidavit said Officer Fitzgerald collapsed to the ground, at which point Pfeffer allegedly stood over him and shot him several more times in his face and head, FOX News reported.
After fatally wounding the young officer, Pfeffer then allegedly rifled through the officer’s pockets and tried to steal his duty weapon, WPVI reported.
Philadelphia Police radio transmissions in the immediate moments following the fatal shooting of a Temple University Police Officer. (Please be advised – this is difficult to listen to) @CBSPhiladelphia pic.twitter.com/c3Gk6EF1D0
— Joe Holden (@JoeHoldenCBS3) February 19, 2023
Security footage showed the gunman carjacking another victim near the murder scene a short while later, according to investigators.
“Give me the keys, give me the keys. I’ll kill you, swear to God,” the suspect was heard saying in the footage, according to WPVI.
Officer Fitzgerald was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Investigators later located the stolen car in the area of Sedgley Avenue and 30th Street.
A multiagency team of law enforcement officers apprehended the alleged gunman in the 2300-block of Quarry Road in Buckingham Township at about 7:12 a.m. on Feb. 19, WPVI.
He was taken into custody using Officer Fitzgerald’s handcuffs.
“It’s a tradition that we do any time there’s a fallen officer, and we thought it was important to remember Officer Fitzgerald… by placing his cuffs on the suspect,” U.S. Marshal Supervisor Deputy Rob Clark told WPVI.
This morning, investigators from the USMS Eastern PA Fugitive Task Force, Bucks County Central SWAT, PPD Homicide, and Buckingham Police arrested Miles Pfeffer, 18, in Bucks county. Pfeffer was wanted for murder in relation to the shooting death of a Temple Univ Police Officer. pic.twitter.com/gzd8c9Etns
— USMS Philadelphia (@USMS_Philly) February 19, 2023
Pfeffer will be charged with murder, murder of a law enforcement officer, carjacking, robbery, and weapons-related charges, according to WPVI.
Sources said Pfeffer claimed he melted the firearm he used to murder Officer Fitzgerald, WPVI reported.
Police located a large burn pit on Pfeffer’s mother’s property in Bucks County during a search on Sunday, according to the news outlet.
Investigators said they seized multiple weapons from the family home, CBS News reported.
Pfeffer’s mother was also taken into custody for questioning, according to the news outlet.
Investigators said local police are familiar with Pfeffer due to his history of so-called nuisance crimes, CBS News reported.
The family lives on the grounds of the historic Boxley Farm.
Officer Fitzgerald’s murder marked the first line-of-duty shooting death in the history of the Temple University Police Department, WPVI reported.
The two-year department veteran is the son of former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, according to WFAA.
He leaves behind his wife, four children, and his parents.
The fallen hero’s children range in age from seven to 14, WCAU reported.
Remembering and honoring our forever hero, Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald.
Officer Fitzgerald gave his life protecting the temple community and we are forever indebted to him. He valiantly served the temple community and the people of Philadelphia
EOW: 02/18/23 pic.twitter.com/5oRoxwxZPF
— Temple University Police Association (@officialTUPA) February 19, 2023
“Officer Fitzgerald gave his life to selflessly serve and defend this community,” Temple University said in a statement to WPVI. “The courage and bravery he displayed highlights the day-to-day sacrifice made by our Temple University Police Officers to keep our community safe.”
“This loss leaves an enormous hole in all of our hearts. He was a father, a husband, a son, a colleague, and a friend,” the university’s statement read. “There are simply no words that can make sense of such a tragedy. It tears at our sense of community, and wounds us to our very soul. Temple has lost an officer and hero to senseless violence. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and the entire Temple community during this tremendously difficult time.”
Officer Fitzgerald’s family said he was working an overtime shift when he was murdered, WCAU reported.
Police officer shot and killed in Philly tonight. Sources say a Temple University cop tried to stop a carjacking and was shot at 18th and Montgomery. Police and family gathered at Temple University Hospital. @FOX29philly pic.twitter.com/8F6qhjbQzg
— JoAnn Pileggi (@joannpileggi) February 19, 2023
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a tweet he was “shocked & heartbroken” over the loss of Officer Fitzgerald, and vowed his office “will extend all support we have to family, friends & colleagues of the officer.”
“We are already collaborating with [Philadelphia police] to bring the responsible parties to justice,” Krasner added.
A memorial of photos, candles, and flowers has been growing near the site of Officer Fitzgerald’s murder, WPVI reported.
“He is the guy that we all strive to be,” Temple University Police Association President Alec Shaffer, told the news outlet. “He is a family man. When he wasn’t working, wasn’t serving this community, he was still out in the community doing other community events. When we did union events, he was always the first one there, always willing to help out and always engaging the community.”
A fundraising campaign established to help Officer Fitzgerald’s family in the wake of his murder has raised more than $218,000 so far.