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Officer Forced to Fatally Shoot Teenage Son

Officer Forced to Fatally Shoot Teenage Son

a Hatfield Township police officer, sits on the porch of a home on Oxford Road in Towamencin shortly after police and paramedics were called to the area for a shooting Wednesday. [Video screen capture]

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

June 09, 2011

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA – A Montgomery County police officer fatally shot his 17-year-old son when the teenager attacked him with a hunting knife Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Stephen Schmitz, a junior at North Penn Senior High School, was shot in his Towamencin Township home about 3 p.m. by his father, Eric B. Schmitz, 56, a lieutenant with the Hatfield Township Police Department, authorities said.

Authorities did not identify the teenager, but friends confirmed it was Stephen Schmitz. Before officials even acknowledged his death, a Facebook memorial page had been created for him. By about 11 p.m., it had received more than 1,300 “likes.”

The knife had a five-inch fixed blade with an overall length of 10 inches, according to a news release issued Wednesday night by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman and Towamencin Township Police Chief Paul T. Dickinson.

The father was cooperating with the township and county investigation and was being treated at a hospital for injuries from the attack, Ferman and Dickinson said.

Towamencin police had been called twice before to the house, in the 100 block of Oxford Road, they said.

On April 30, police were called because the teen was enraged, they said. He reportedly had made vague threats in the past to harm himself.

Ferman and Dickinson said the tension in the household had subsided, but police were called back May 26, when the boy threatened to kill himself.

Stephen Schmitz was involuntarily committed that day to the Horsham Clinic, Ferman and Dickinson said. He was released Tuesday.

Detectives continued to process the shooting scene and conduct interviews Wednesday night. They asked that anyone with information about the behavior of the teen, including threats he may have made, call the Montgomery County Detective Bureau at 610-278-3368 or Towamencin Township police at 215-368-7600.

Investigators cordoned off the property with yellow police tape and put up a blue tarpaulin near the side of the house. About 5:30 p.m., a county coroner’s van arrived.

A half-dozen teenagers clutching cellphones stood solemnly at one end of the barricaded street Wednesday night. None wanted to comment.

On the Facebook memorial page, fellow North Penn students expressed sadness and shock over his death.

“I can’t believe this! It seems so unreal, saw you in 4th period today. you were such a nice guy. R.I.P Stephen,” wrote Jenny Karim, 16, a sophomore at North Penn.

She later said in a Facebook message to a reporter that she did not know Stephen well, but that “he was a really sweet guy” who sat in front of her in chorus during the school year.

Another student wrote on the memorial page: “I remember that you were Zeke in Penndale’s musical High School Musical 3 years ago. RIP:’(”

The memorial page identifies Stephen as “actor/director.” He also played lacrosse, another student wrote.

His older brother, Drew, also received a steady stream of supportive messages from friends on Facebook.

Their father is listed on the Hatfield Police Department’s website as its “right to know” officer and the lieutenant of administration, “responsible for the internal police department function.”

Hatfield Township Manager Andrew Haines, who had apparently left for the day and rushed back to the township building, said: “We have no comment at this point until we ourselves learn more.”

Tom Zipfel, president of the five-member Hatfield Township Board of Commissioners, said he had known Eric Schmitz for about five years.

“He’s a wonderful police officer, there is no doubt about that,” Zipfel said. “He has served us fantastically for many years. . . . You couldn’t find a more decent man or a more decent police officer.”

Zipfel said he did not know enough about the shooting to comment, but he added: “Our township as a whole is thinking about him and his family.”

  • 25-1-13-a_1__max50


    over 2 years ago


    Sara22, This situation occurred inside of his own residence. This means that it was in extremely close quarters. The suspect / son was using a sharp edged deadly weapon, identified as a hunting knife with a 5 inch blade and a 10 inch overall length. I can guarantee you that the father / Lieutenant felt that his life was in immediate danger because of the actions of his son. I can assure you, that shooting and killing his son was NOT a decision that he took lightly. I can also assure you that this decision had to be made in a split second or less, leaving him with no other force options. In the space of 2 seconds, a suspect armed with a knife can advance 20 to 30 feet towards you. If you deploy the taser in this situation, it might be effective if you are lucky and actually hit the suspect with both darts and even then, you would be lucky if it were effective. As others have mentioned, the Taser is NOT the end all solution and relying on it as such can have deadly consequences for the officer. If you miss the suspect or if the taser is just simply not effective, the suspect continues to advance. Now the father / officer has lost the time necessary for him to use another force option, a loss of time which may have cost him his own life. Placing yourself into the situation and stating that "it would be worth getting cut up if it meant not killing your son" is an assumption that will get you killed. Is it worth having your life taken by your son because he stabbed you in the neck, throat, chest, lungs, heart, liver or kidney because you had a better force option available to you and you were too complacent to use it on the simple premise that this is your son (or daughter)? It may be your child but make no mistake about it.............. At this very moment in time as this incident is playing out, he / she is first and foremost A SUSPECT, a suspect who is advancing very quickly on you in an enraged state of mind and who has intentions of hurting or killing you with a deadly weapon. Seconds count and you don't have seconds to waste.

  • Sspx0013_-resized_max50


    over 2 years ago


    Such a tragedy for everyone.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago

    Wow, this sounds like a sticky situation for everyone invovled. Kid should of thought more than acted, sounds like the father tried ot get him help, the kid needed more than he probably could handle.

  • Ready_set_go_max50


    about 3 years ago


    What a terrible thing to have prayers to the family, friends and community

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50


    about 3 years ago


    police were called back May 26, when the boy threatened to kill himself.
    Stephen Schmitz was involuntarily committed that day to the Horsham Clinic

    People are talking about this should have been done or that should have been done but I believe a lot of people are missing the bigger picture. That picture is what I copied and pasted above. There is a lot more going on that we are not aware of. No matters what happens next this LEO will always have this on his shoulders and people will always remember him as being the "Parent" who shot his Son.

    My prayers go out to the family and friends.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    Thank you very much bcso.....Glad to see narrow minded jack asses still with us in uniform....Glad you could add such inciteful conversation about the topic at hand....which me and my views are NOT. Though I am honored for all the attention, really...
    I just feel with all the "options" to choose from...well..Have ya ever been pepper sprayed? How bout that tazer? Ever been hit with one of those??? Tell ya what I dont care how big a knife you have on you....with say 50k volts it dont matter. Oh wait....I'm sorry, youve prollay seen it and done it all tho, my bad, its ok rook, we were all there
    And by the way Boyscout., Been there done that... got a few scars but overall Im aight and by the way.....your welcome for your freedom to choose to be such an ass Far as me and my nuts go....Well anytime you feelin froggy boy come on down, an bring your clippers I got the peach preserves and the live chicken..
    ...To the rest of you guys on this post I do apologize for my buddies out burst, your right I prollay shoulda just left it alone, Truly sorry back on topic now

  • Pursuit_max50


    about 3 years ago

    6 Comments are an idiot and obviously not a cop....try defending yourself hand to hand with some nut job carrying a 10in knife and let me know how that works out for you...stupid people like you annoy me and your balls should be cut off so you don't infect the rest of the world

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    lets see.....theres beam bags. flash bangs, tazers pepper spray, asp sticks hand to hand training all sorts of tchnology coming out everday that is less lethal ....and he chose to lethal force...on his son to boot! Wow wtf is worng with people

  • Robocop_max50


    about 3 years ago


    God help and protect us and our families

  • Picture_100_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I can not imagine. Truely Tragic.

  • My_1st_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Heart Breaking

  • In_the_dark_max600_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My prayers go out to this family. I have seen the evils of mental illness and drug abuse with offenders I have worked with in the past. They are sons, brothers, unlces, fathers.... There is no discrimination when it comes to drug abuse, addiction, mental illness, etc. It can happen to anyone. They become so detached from reality and can be so dangerous to themselves and others... God bless this man and his family... I hope everything gets sorted out for them, and may their son R.I.P. in the Lord's arms...

  • Herosonpatrol_max50


    about 3 years ago


    So Sad & So Tragic; Prayers & Condolences to All in this family & may they somehow someday find some peace & may your son rest in peace.

  • Ralphie_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Hey BOSS i pray for you and your family!!...May your son RIP...

  • Fmf_badge_max50


    about 3 years ago


    A sad tragedy for this family, we will never know what went wrong for this young man. My prayers go out for this family, may the boy rest in peace, may the rest of the family recover from this worst of all tragedies. May our Most Merciful Father watch over this family and help them heal.

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