Philadelphia won’t seek death penalty in Temple officer’s death

Philadelphia death
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

By MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press

Philadelphia’s top prosecutor won’t seek the death penalty for a teenager charged with fatally shooting a Temple University officer, a decision that angered the victim’s colleagues and relatives.

District Attorney Larry Krasner, a former civil rights lawyer, has long been a vocal opponent of capital punishment in a state with a moratorium on it. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a fellow Democrat, has vowed not to sign any execution warrants.

Miles Pfeffer, 19, of suburban Philadelphia’s Buckingham Township, learned of the decision at a brief court hearing Wednesday. He is accused of killing Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, in February 2023 as the officer chased three suspects after a series of robberies and carjackings in the area. After two of the suspects hid, officers say, Fitzgerald caught up with Pfeffer and ordered him to the ground. The pair struggled, and Pfeffer shot him six times, killing him, officials say.

Fitzgerald was a married father of four.

Pfeffer, then 18, was arrested the next morning at his mother’s suburban home and charged with murder, killing a police officer, carjacking and other crimes. He remains in prison without bail. No trial date has been set.

A spokesperson for Krasner said the death penalty decision followed “extensive input” from both experts and Fitzgerald’s family.

“They reviewed all aspects of the case itself and all obtainable information on the defendant prior to making their recommendations to D.A. Krasner, who made the final determination,” the statement Wednesday from spokesperson Dustin Slaughter said.

Pfeffer is represented by the public defender’s office, which generally does not comment on cases. Messages left with an office spokesperson were not immediately returned Wednesday.

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

Joel Fitzgerald, the victim’s father and a former city officer who now heads the transit police in Denver, released a statement saying Krasner’s background as a defense lawyer had “tipped the scales of justice,” according to local news reports.

The Temple University Police Association, in a social media post, called the decision “absolutely devastating.”