New details emerge in Temple University officer killing

Temple University officer
Police gather at Temple University Hospital following a fatal shooting of a Temple University police officer near the campus on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

A Philadelphia police supervisor’s decision to quickly apprehend two teenagers moments after the fatal shooting of Temple University Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald allowed investigators to identify and arrest the murder suspect less than 12 hours later, officials said Tuesday.

Corporal Theresa Brooks, who was overseeing the operations room at the 22nd Police District, located a block away from the shooting scene, heard Fitzgerald say over police radio that he was in a foot pursuit, according to PPD Staff Inspector Ernest Ransom.

Ransom said Brooks immediately left the station, heard gunshots and detained two boys – ages 16 and 17 – who were fleeing the area. When Fitzgerald succumbed to his injuries a short time later, the teens were transferred to the homicide division for questioning.

“The detectives interviewed those males, at which time they provided us with information necessary to develop a suspect,” Ransom told reporters during a news conference Tuesday morning.

The suspect – 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer – was apprehended early Sunday morning at his home, on a historic 22-acre farm in Buckingham, Bucks County, and has since been charged with murder, robbery and a litany of other crimes.

Miles Pfeffer mugshot
Miles PfefferPhiladelphia Police

Pfeffer waived his right to remain silent and provided valuable information to investigators following his arrest, Ransom said. Court records do not list an attorney for Pfeffer.

Ransom said Pfeffer was in the area, on the edge of Temple University’s main campus, Saturday night to visit friends, and his father also lives in Philadelphia.

Authorities have yet to identify the murder weapon; however, District Attorney Larry Krasner said investigators are analyzing multiple firearms found at the Buckingham home. The younger teens were unarmed when they were brought in, Ransom said.

Krasner declined to comment on whether anyone else will be arrested in connection with Fitzgerald’s killing. As of Tuesday, only Pfeffer is facing charges.

The Inquirer, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, reported that Pfeffer was arrested last year for sending online threats to Central Bucks South High School.

“While we are aware of reports of a juvenile history that have been in the media, Pennsylvania law prohibits us from talking about our own sources of information in relation to that at this time,” Krasner said.

Fitzgerald, who was in full uniform and a marked police car, attempted to stop the three teenagers at around 7 p.m. Saturday, Ransom said, adding that there had been a series of robberies and carjackings in the area and the boys were dressed in all black and wearing masks.

He issued a call over police radio, alerting law enforcement that he was chasing the trio, authorities said. The younger boys hid while Fitzgerald followed the third, believed to be Pfeffer, to the 1700 block of Montgomery Avenue, according to police.

What happened next was partially captured on nearby surveillance cameras, though Ransom said the video will not be released “out of respect for the family.”

Fitzgerald caught up to Pfeffer, and the pair scuffled, authorities said. That’s when Pfeffer allegedly fired multiple shots, knocking Fitzgerald to the ground. Ransom said the shooter fired three more rounds at the officer, while he was down.

Investigators said the teenager appeared to think about running away but turned around and made an unsuccessful attempt to steal Fitzgerald’s gun.

After the shooting, Pfeffer allegedly ran to the 1800 block of Montgomery, where he carjacked a driver at gunpoint, threatening to kill the victim. That vehicle was later recovered in Strawberry Mansion, Ransom said.

Chris Fitzgerald joined the Temple police department in 2021. Temple University Police Association

Viewings for Fitzgerald will be held Thursday night at John F. Givnish Funeral Home in the Far Northeast and Friday morning at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City, which will also host a funeral Mass Friday.

Fitzgerald, who leaves behind his wife and four children, joined Temple’s force in October 2021, previously serving as a deputy in the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office. He was an active runner, participating in Black Men Run Philly and the Swagga House Run Club.

To help Fitzgerald’s family, the Temple University Police Association set up a GoFundMe, which has raised more than $379,000 in two days.

At the time of the encounter, he was riding solo in his patrol car – which is common for campus officers and those at police departments across the country, said Jennifer Griffin, Temple’s director of public safety.

Griffin said some university officers returned to duty Monday. Currently, they are riding two to a vehicle, she told reporters.

Christopher Fitzgerald (middle), with gray Temple shirt, is pictured.Temple University Police Association

Temple President Jason Wingard said the university will provide more information in the coming days about enhanced safety efforts.

“We are advocating and allocating more resources, more programs, new initiatives but frankly, it’s just not enough,” he said. “In spite of all those resources, in spite of all those initiatives, it’s not working. We need help. The systemic violence that plagues this city, that plagues North Philadelphia can’t be solved by Temple alone.”

Mayor Jim Kenney, as he often has following high-profile shootings, pleaded for the help of state and federal lawmakers, who he blames for not tightening gun regulations.

“You can say you back the blue,” he said. “But if you don’t back gun control and gun availability, you don’t back the blue.”

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, fired back on Twitter, writing, “Stop with all the excuses. The s— head pulled the trigger. Stop the blame game@and let the cops do the job they were trained to do #backtheblue.”