The Murder of Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald

Temple University Police Officer, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, was murdered while on duty in a Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania neighborhood. The police arrested Miles Pfeffer, 18, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, regarding this incident. Sgt. Fitzgerald is the first Temple University police officer ever to be killed in the line of duty. This case remains an active and open multi-agency investigation.

Christopher Fitzgerald

Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, was married, and a father of four children. He was extremely athletic, and a devoted runner. Fitzgerald was described as authentic and genuine, with clear devotion to his family and his community. He first became involved in law enforcement when he became a corrections officer at 19 years-old. He made the career transition to becoming a police officer, following in the steps of both of his parents, who have consistently worked in law enforcement over many years. His father, Joel Fitzgerald, is currently the Chief of Police and Emergency Management for the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado. Christopher Fitzgerald began working as a police officer at Temple University in Philadelphia in October 2021.

Fitzgerald was involved in several community programs, including Black Men Run, a group that encourages physical fitness, and the Hood2Hood running program, which is a group that supports efforts of awareness against gun violence.

What Happened to Christopher Fitzgerald?

On the evening of February 18, 2023, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald received a report of a possible robbery. One of three males had punched a separate single male in the face when he wouldn’t surrender his vehicle. As Sgt. Fitzgerald made his way toward the scene of the incident, he encountered a person dressed in solid black. According to radio transmissions, Sgt. Fitzgerald stated he was in a foot pursuit with a possible suspect. Additional police officers responded to offer aid in the apprehension of that robbery suspect. Law enforcement discovered Sgt. Fitzgerald in the 1700 block of Montgomery Avenue near 17th Street. He had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his chest, head, and face. He was pronounced dead at 7:27 p.m. at Temple University Hospital.

The Investigation and Identification of Miles Pfeffer

Investigators discovered in the first initial moments of the investigation that the entire confrontation between Sgt. Fitzgerald and the suspect had been captured on audio/video surveillance. The video footage clearly captured Sgt. Fitzgerald ordering the suspect to get on the ground as the two physically struggled. The suspect pulled out a handgun from the waistband of his pants and shot Sgt. Fitzgerald in the chest, which knocked him to the ground. The video shows the suspect standing over Sgt. Fitzgerald as he fired multiple gunshots into Sgt. Fitzgerald’s head and face before robbing him. He attempted to steal Sgt. Fitzgerald’s firearm from its holster but could not remove because of the holster’s design. The suspect then took off on foot and within a few blocks, he carjacked an Infiniti Q60 from a motorist, telling the driver, “Give me the keys or I’ll kill you.” From that location, Pfeffer drove to a location on Ridge Avenue where his mother picked him up and returned to their home in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The Arrest of Miles Pfeffer

On the morning of February 19, 2023, approximately 12 hours after the incident, officers from the United States Marshall’s Service, the Eastern PA Fugitive Task Force, Bucks County Central SWAT, the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Department, and the Buckingham Police Department arrested Miles Pfeffer. The arrest was made at Pfeffer’s mother’s 22-acre Bucks County estate named Boxley Farm (circa 1760) at 2377 Quarry Road in Buckingham, PA. Pfeffer’s father lives in the small Philadelphia neighborhood named Strawberry Mansion, which has introduced a theory that perhaps Pfeffer was in that section of Philadelphia to visit his father. The arrest was made after law enforcement received confirmation of Pfeffer’s involvement from Pfeffer’s sibling, a teenager who had been one of the three subjects captured on the previous night’s video of the first alleged robbery incident. News sources stated the sibling who had been hiding from view during Pfeffer’s alleged attack on Sgt. Fitzgerald reported it. Further details regarding the two other subjects have not been made public, at this point in the investigation, although the two teenagers were detained for questioning by investigators.

Law enforcement has stated that by following surveillance camera footage, they were able to trace Pfeffer’s movements from the first alleged robbing incident to the encounter with Sgt. Fitzgerald, to the carjacking of the Infiniti Q60, before being picked-up by his mother on Ridge Avenue, in his father’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. 

According to a Robert Clark, Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Service, stated that the slain officer’s handcuffs were used when Pfeffer was taken into custody, which is a long running tradition in law enforcement departments who have experienced an officer line-of-duty death.

The Charges Against Miles Pfeffer

Miles Pfeffer had his initial arraignment on February 22, 2023, before being transported to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility where he will await his next court appearance. Prosecutors have charged Pfeffer with 24 separate charges. Two charges are for the murder of Sgt. Fitzgerald. The remaining various charges are 11 felony charges, and 11 misdemeanor charges that encompass all the events of the night of February 18, 2023.

Pfeffer, who had just turned 18-years old a month before Sgt. Fitzgerald’s death was known to local Bucks County police. He had been previously charged as a juvenile for terroristic threats via a bomb threat incident at CB South High School in 2021. Pfeffer had only been off of probation a short time before the incident regarding Sgt. Fitzgerald occurred. He was listed as a student at CB South High School until 2019. Information has not been made public regarding enrollment in any school district following that year.

He is currently being held without bail.

The Aftermath

Hundreds of people attended a memorial service for Officer Christopher Fitzgerald at the Temple University Bell Tower on February 22, 2023. In honor of Fitzgerald, Temple University lit the bell tower in blue light. His funeral service was held on February 24, 2023 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul before being laid to rest at Forest Hills Cemetery in Huntingdon Valley, PA.

Joel Fitzgerald, father to Christopher Fitzgerald, and Marissa Fitzgerald, the widow of Christopher Fitzgerald, gave an interview to the news station, NBC 10 Philadelphia. It can be found here.

Marissa Fitzgerald and their 7-year-old son, Christopher Fitzgerald, Jr. gave a separate interview to 6abc, which can be found here.

Melissa Fitzgerald and some of the Fitzgerald family Source: The Temple News

According to a public statement made by the President of Temple University, Dr. Jason Wingard, the Temple University Board of Trustees are establishing a fund for Christopher Fitzgerald’s family. He also stated that Temple University would pay for the funeral. In addition, should the children of Fitzgerald attend Temple University, they would waive tuition. You can find the official public statement here.

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