PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Temple University police officer was fatally shot near campus Saturday night while chasing a robbery suspect, officials said. A man is now facing murder and other charges in the officer’s death.
The Philadelphia district attorney’s office said 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer will face charges of murder, murder of a law enforcement officer, robbery, carjacking and weapons crimes in the death of Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, who prosecutors said was shot in the head while responding to an incident near campus.
“Pfeffer is also alleged to have attempted to rob Officer Fitzgerald of his gun and to have gone through his pockets, while the officer was laying on the ground and fatally wounded,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement Sunday. “Pfeffer is further alleged to have committed a carjacking a short time after, close to the location of the officer’s murder.”
The Bucks County district attorney’s office said Pfeffer was taken into custody shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday at his Buckingham Township home by township and Philadelphia police as well as state police and federal marshals. “Police used the fallen officer’s handcuffs in placing the suspect under arrest,” county prosecutors said.
There was no immediate word on whether Pfeffer had an attorney; a number listed for his home was no longer in service.
Temple University officials said Fitzgerald had been on the university police force since October 2021.
“Officer Fitzgerald gave his life to selflessly serve and defend this community,” Jennifer Griffin, the university’s vice president for public safety, said in a statement. “This loss leaves an enormous hole in all of our hearts. He was a father, a husband, a son, a colleague, and a friend.”
University president Jason Wingard said he was “heartbroken” and called the shooting “a gut-wrenching reminder of our police officers’ daily bravery and sacrifices to protect our students, faculty, staff and community” as the city and the nation deal with “an unprecedented epidemic of violence.”
In a statement to Nexstar’s KDVR, Colorado’s Regional Transportation District confirmed Fitzgerald is the son of its chief of police and emergency management, Dr. Joel Fitzgerald Sr.
Ken Kaiser, the university’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as saying it was the first shooting death of a campus officer during his more than 30 years at Temple. “It just shakes everybody to the core,” he said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro tweeted that he and first lady Lori were “devastated for the family of the Temple University police officer who was killed in the line of duty tonight, bravely serving his community.”
They sent prayers to his family, Temple police and the university community, he added, saying, “May his memory be a blessing.”
Joseph Regan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge, also expressed condolences.
“There are no words to describe the news of another one of our officers being shot,” Regan said in a statement. “This officer is a hero whose legacy and unselfish act will live in our hearts and memories forever.”
It was the first fatal shooting of an on-duty police officer in Philadelphia since 2020, according to the Inquirer.