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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.”

  • Nothing_really_001_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Okami....i can understand your concern. but they aid he WAS admitted and released. I believe dad made a hard, challenging, but right decision. ITs either you or me. R.i.p jr. much respect to the family....Lets pray strength for dad. Hes has to live with this for the rest of his life. wow. RIP

  • Sunset_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My heart goes out to the family. Tough call.

  • Flags_and_stars_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Prayers for the family

  • Segway-police-unit-china_max50


    about 3 years ago


    At least the officer wasn't hurt.

  • 375956_401447159923274_1109023972_n_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My heartfelt sympathy goes to Lieutenant Schmitz and his family, living with this tragedy day after day will be deep feelings of guilt for all involved.

    Lieutenant Schmitz had no alternative but to defend himself as he would in any other situation of this kind. His son was documented as having extreme issues of violence and apparently the Mental Health community didn't see it as such. A 13 day hospitalization is not enough time to diagnosis and treat his son's issues.

    I agree with everyone with the exception of most of okami's post. I have lived with a violent child and I know when a situation escalates there is usually not enough time to call 911 or for back up.

  • Dsc_0030_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I sure wish okami knew more about what the hell he was ranting about. I can't believe your nerve. I don't know what kind of law enforcement professional you are, or if you are even one at all, but a father has just lost his son from his own hands. A mother has just lost her son at the hands of her husband. A son has just lost his brother from the hands of his father. I couldn't imgaine the guilt. That officer was forced to defend himslef from his son who attacked him with a knife. The report even said that the officer needed to be treated at the hospital for his injuries. Perhaps you should read the article again. Next time think before you type because nobody at this point has liked what you posted. My thoughts and prayers go to Lt. Schmitz's family.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    To just outlive a child is every parents worst nightmare. This is ... an unimaginable tragedy.
    My most heartfelt condolences to all involved.
    Rich in New Mexico.

  • 582602_3283682777720_334551836_n_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Another article states that in the recent past, the officer had to call other officers from the PD to come to his home due to his sons violence. It also states that he had his son institutionalized and he was released after a period of 13 days. Instead of Pointing fingers at a man that looks so distraught he doesn't want to live another day, I think we should take a closer look into the instution that shouldn't have released the son unless he was really "Stable"? JMO.

  • Littlegirltongue_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Big bump AKangel - thoughts and prayers for this man and family for the rest of his life. Solace to the son - that his demons will be healed.

  • Airplane_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Prayers to Lt. Schmitz and his family.

  • Apex_20pd_20fb_2001012138_1_


    about 3 years ago



  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Okami, Not the place, Nor the time, for your Rant.
    A Life was lost today, a Father and family grieve, That is all you need to understand!

  • Angel_kincaid_park_2014_max50


    about 3 years ago



    Bump..." To all fellow lawmen and women, who are paying their respects and support of Lt.Schmitz.

    To: Lt.Schmitz,
    I hope and pray that you will be able to move on with quick healing... I pray for understanding, clearity and reason for this aweful tragedy. I hope that your wounds will heal quickly, as not to serve as a constant reminder and memory of this most unfortunate incident. And I will pray for this young man's soul...and that he may find peace with his maker. May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ take this family by the hand and cover them with his tender mercies of forgiveness...A-men'

    Bump! LAWMANTUKES, A-men my Brother

  • Steve_mcqueen_max50


    about 3 years ago


    okami ; "IF YOUR GOING TO WITHOLD JUDGMENT UNTIL FURTHER INVESTIGATION" YOU NEED TO KEEP YOU UNKNOWING MOUTH SHUT ! Any number of reasons can be attributed to the causation of this situation. The real facts are that a Child is dead and the Father had to defend himself from that adolescent child that was armed and threatening harm. The reasoning for the incident will eventual come out and we will never know the reasoning behind it because it is a "SHOCK HEADLINE" initially but afterward it moves to the back page of the news paper. Right now the only thing that matters is the remaining Family and having to bury a Son. It is a time for grieving , not pre-judging without facts or knowledge. My prayers to the Family and to the Departed Son. May God watch over Lt. Schmitz because some of us know the repercussions of the taking of another human life , you never forget and you always question what if !

  • Vpsomourningband_max50


    about 3 years ago


    okami, if (and that's a stretch) you comprehended what you read you would not have made most of your inane comments. Remedial reading/comprehension classes highly suggested.
    Listen... shhhh, I hear something. Oh yeah, your bridge is calling, it misses being your roof.

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