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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.”

  • Csi_squirrle_max600_1__max50


    about 3 years ago


    What a nighmare. I could not imagine what the LT is going through right now. It sounds like suicide by cop, but why chose your father? May this family somehow find peace.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    Very tough situation, that officer/father will have to live with that for the rest of his life.

  • Brady_2-3-06_max50


    about 3 years ago


    This is a no-win scenario. My heart felt blessings to the entire family and the township's police department. Such a tragedy.

  • Craz_n_campbooka_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I have no clue what to say... these are the shoes no one would ever want to fill.. nor would one ever be able to train for... our support, thoughts and prayers go out to you, your family and friends.

  • 1979_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Tragic. God Bless this family during this horrible time.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    Prayers to him for peace and strength. As one who has lost a child under different circumstances I feel his anguish and pain. A tragedy all the way around.

  • Picture_008_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Very sad, Prayers go out to the whole family and friends. Get well Soon LT..

  • 3865552356_b034ced2c4_1__max50


    about 3 years ago


    The thought of having to make that decision is unimaginable. May God help him through this pain.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago

    God bless you, Lt. I can't imagine your pain and conflict, but may God grant you comfort and grace.

  • Lawman_max50


    about 3 years ago


    You're in my prayers Lt., may God take your pain away and allow you to cope with this horrible situation.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    I can't imagine the pain. My thoughts and prayers go out to your family Lt.

  • Badge_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I can't imagine walking in the Lt.'s shoes. God Bless and my condolences. My prayers are with you and your family. Please pray for support for his family , friends, and Fellow Officers for the strength to keep going.

  • Bcpdpatch2_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Horrible situation. Praying for you and your family, Lt.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    about 3 years ago


    A horrible situation to be placed in. I pray for the father, this was the hardest decision he ever had to make. I wish him well in his recovery.

  • Cpusey-001_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Prayers are with Lt. Schmitz and his family...

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