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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.”

  • Profile_max50


    about 4 years ago


    The way I love my own son, I cannot fathom what this father is going through! I feel so much empathy for him!
    He had a depressed kid. That depression somehow turned into anger...and look at the results. I prayerfully hope this LT. will get as much therapy as he needs...he has a hole in his heart now...that will never be filled. God Bless You LT!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    I'm praying for you and your family. Please know sir that you will remain in my prayers forever. This must be a true nightmare for you and your entire family. I can only imagine your horrible pain and grief. I am truly sorry for you and your family.


    Until you know what you are talking about DON'T!!!! Question: How many of you that are judging the Lt "wicked" have ever gone out on the streets on a ride-along??? Have you ever attended a Citizen's Police Academy?? Have you ever done anything with the police?? You might want to. You will come away with a different attitude -- especially if you are riding and you get a call to a rape or a shots fired call. Or even a MVA with fatalities. It's a whole different world out there and there is no way you understand that world unless you have spent at least a little time with the officers of your community. Don't judge the officers until you know what you are judging.

    When someone is putting you in a life-threatening position, you do what needs to be done. A taser is NOT a self-defense weapon. A taser is ONLY an intermediate weapon. Have you ever seen one fired??? They are little wire leads that have a metal probe on the end. These can go wild. They can miss the target completely. They can hit someone else. The Captain fired one during the Citizen's Police Academy class that I attended and this is what happened. The one lead hit the target but the other one went wild and hit the wall then dropped to the ground. This taser was totally useless. If this had been a true life & death situation, and the Captain drew his taser, the Captain would have been killed. He would not have had time to drop the taser and draw his sidearm (Captain’s words).

    (OK Sarge: I'll close off my soapbox and stand down. But I had to say this. I just don't see the Lt. just walking into his home and blowing his son away like these others are implying. I just don't see it.)

    Read my statement about the tasers. They are NOT that wonderful. We had an officer that pulled his taser--we buried him last year. They are NOT the answer to the crimes against officers. We also had an officer use a taser as a stun gun -- the taser probes can be removed by the officer -- and the Cpl. Caught h*ll for that. Of course the news FAILED to report the truth. The “Kid” stood over 6’, weighed 240#, took out one officer -- knocked him unconscious, was choking a second offer to death. NONE of this was bothered to be reported by the news. The news wanted the officer to catch h*ll but when all the kids on the school bus told what happened, the officer was cleared of ALL wrong - doing.

    MANY kids have wonderful parents and end up on the wrong side of the law. I work with kids every day that are in the system. I see what their parents are like and I see what the kids have become. I have also worked in the medical community and again I worked with mostly the kids. There ARE reasons for kids to end up with terrible problems even when from good, loving homes. The main reason is chemical imbalances. Sometimes it can be corrected with medication but almost 90% of these individuals stop taking their medications for various reasons. YOU have no right to judge the Lt.

    You don't know what you are talking about. The Lt. has put his life on the line many times--he did not become a Lt just out of the academy--and he was there. YOU were NOT there so you have no right to pass judgment on this Officer. "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." -- This is why the Lt did what he had to do.

    You want to see what happens when an Officer doesn't do what he should have done -- go to my profile page and view the album "Why Cops Shoot People with Knives".

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Great post Sara22, NOT! A knife to me is a lot scarier than a gun especially in the hands of a person with mental problems. Good luck to this LEO in getting thru this, mentally.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    My heart goes out to the Schmitz family during this difficult time. They are in my prayers, my thoughts and my heart.

  • Imagesca4darnm_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Couldn't he have found a less lethal way like tazing him? Knocking him out or something else. It'd be worth it to get cut up if it meant not killing your son unless the officer realized he'd get severely injured or killed.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    What an incredibly sad situation.

  • Cops4christ_max50


    about 4 years ago


    BUMP sgtlaflower...tragic

  • Jr_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Wow, just Wow. How in the h*ll do you deal with that ! It's bad enough you may have to take a bad guys life, but having to take your own son's life. How is he going to be able top deal with that. God be with him through this tragic time. Tragic simply tragic !

  • Bearcat_2_max600_max50


    about 4 years ago


    First and most importantly, thoughts and prayers to this family. Tragic. To those that are using this site to post personal opinions and anti law enforcement rhetoric, move on to another site.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    How awful for this officer heart goes out to him ..It will be very hard for him.

  • Tigerstripe_002_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Its a sad thing theres just no words for, dont let it hold you or your family back. He was able to enjoy 17 years on this precious earth. Rocky the later ones may have been. Move forwards and chug onwards, have another child and try again. Maybe in a new home, a new place. Be strong and live well, those are my prayers.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    I my thoughts and prayers to the family.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    An officer who has to shoot his own son for fear his own son would kill him is probably the worst thing anyone can do. Not only heartbreak but not unheard of, it's horrible, something happened to that boy think he would turn against his father like that. If his threatened to kill himself and police were called before then maybe the he figured because his father was a police officer he could provoke his father into killing him as form of suicide. Who knows what was going through the boy's head!

  • Reblemac_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I can't think of anything worse...

  • 10775813-c7a0bb2a3c2065623bd4b59f30599803


    about 4 years ago


    Dead men cannot share their side of the story. I feel there may be more to this situation then meets the eye...

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