(PHILADELPHIA) — An 18-year-old “tussled” with Temple University police officer Christopher Fitzgerald before the teenager allegedly gunned down the officer and fled in a stolen car, according to Philadelphia authorities.
The shooting unfolded on Saturday evening, after Fitzgerald saw three men in masks in an area where there have been a series of robberies and carjackings, Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom said. Fitzgerald was alone at the time, according to the university.
When Fitzgerald tried to conduct a “pedestrian investigation,” the three men fled on foot, and Fitzgerald radioed to say he was chasing them, Ransom said at a news conference Tuesday.
Fitzgerald caught up with one of the men, 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer, Ransom said. Fitzgerald told Pfeffer to “go to the ground,” and video showed the two “tussle,” according to Ransom.
Pfeffer allegedly pulled out a gun and shot the officer, Ransom said. After Fitzgerald fell to the ground, the gunman fired several more shots, Ransom said.
The suspect tried to take Fitzgerald’s handgun, Ransom said. After he was unsuccessful, he ran away and allegedly carjacked a driver, telling the victim, “Gimme the car or I will kill you,” Ransom said.
A police corporal who heard Fitzgerald’s radio call and heard the gunshots saw two young men fleeing the area, Ransom said. She ordered those young men, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, to stop, and they were detained and interviewed, Ransom said. Interviews from the 16-year-old and 17-year-old — who did not have guns on them — led authorities to Pfeffer, police said.
On Sunday, Pfeffer was arrested on charges including murder and robbery, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.
Fitzgerald, a father of five, was fatally shot in the face and upper torso.
He is the first Temple officer to be killed in the line of duty.
Fitzgerald joined Temple’s police department in October 2021, according to Jennifer Griffin, Temple University’s director of public safety.
Through tears, Griffin said Tuesday, “His father, a former Philadelphia police commander and current chief, has shared that he was proud to be a police officer, but that he was exceptionally proud and loved being a Temple University police officer.”
“There are no words to express how heartbroken we are,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. “I’m outraged by this and every senseless act of violence.”
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