Family, friends mourn loss of Temple officer killed in the line of duty

"He is the guy that we all strive to be," Alec Shaffer, president of the Temple University Police Association, said.

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Monday, February 20, 2023
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Tributes are pouring in for the Temple police officer killed while trying to stop a robbery.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A memorial continues to grow along the 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue and Bouvier Street in North Philadelphia. This is just steps away from where Temple University Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald's life was taken far too soon.

One by one, relatives, Temple students, members of the community, and fellow police officers came by to pay their respects to the 31-year-old officer over the weekend.

"It's painful right now that it had to be him. You probably already know he's the first Temple police officer ever to get killed on duty. I just pray he's the first and last," said Fitzgerald's cousin, Juan Marrero.

The shooting happened around 7 p.m. Saturday while Officer Fitzgerald was patrolling alone. According to authorities, he tried to intervene during a robbery when he was shot in the head.

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 Fitzgerald.

SEE ALSO: How police tracked down accused gunman charged in Temple officer's murder

On Monday morning, Temple police transported Pfeffer to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

Flowers, candles, and photos now take over the sidewalk several feet away from where he was killed.

Ofc. Christopher Fitzgerald
Temple University

His cousin says he looked up to Fitzgerald like a brother.

"I always thought he was invincible... When I got a call from my grandmom, they said, 'Chris got shot.' I was hoping he'd be OK," said Marrero.

Just hours before Officer Fitzgerald was shot and killed, Action News caught his final moments out serving and protecting the community as he responded to a crime scene.

"He's 31. He's been doing this since he was 19. This is what he loved to do. He cared about his community," said Marrero.

Fitzgerald was an officer, a husband and a father of four.

Joshua Perez, who used to work with Fitzgerald, says their bond was more than special.

"I can't put into words the relationship we had. I was honored. His father just called me to be a pallbearer," Perez said.

Perez said they talked five to six times a week, and they always ended each call the same.

"I would say, 'Little bro, don't be a hero. Love you.' He said, 'Big bro, love you too. I won't. I got you.'...He was a true hero even though I told him, 'Don't be a hero.' He was still a hero and we'll love him forever. We'll make sure we honor him the best we can," said Perez.

Officers referred to Fitzgerald as 'Fitz' in the field and said he was extremely involved in the community.

"He is the guy that we all strive to be," Alec Shaffer, president of the Temple University Police Association, said. "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."

Flags across Pennsylvania will now fly at half-staff in his honor.

Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry released a statement, saying, "For the third time this year, the second time in less two weeks, Pennsylvania has suffered the tragedy of a police officer killed by the violence wrought by firearms. Today we join in mourning with the communities of Temple University and the City of Philadelphia, and the family of Officer Fitzgerald, who died a hero bravely responding to a dangerous and volatile situation. I want to offer my sincere condolences to his family and loved ones, who knew the danger he confronted in his job and supported him in his chosen profession - as do all families of law enforcement officers. I also want to solemnly thank the investigators from our Office's Gun Violence Task Force working with ATF agents, U.S. Marshals, Pennsylvania State Police, Philadelphia Police, and law enforcement in Bucks County, who literally worked through the night to identify and arrest the suspected shooter involved with this heinous act. We stand together to honor Officer Fitzgerald's service and sacrifice to our community and the entire Commonwealth."