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.”