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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.”

  • Here_and_there_052_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Okami, I absolutely agree with your first sentence, but beyond that, I think you're missing the point--kids may become violent for a number of reasons: psychological studies show that schizophrenia among young adults usually manifests during ltheir late-teens/early 20s, so it may have been that, or classicial depression, or his father may have been abusive--we just don't know. So to take one party's side over another for the BASIS of the boys actions at this point is a worthless exercise. Most of the respondents (besides NYRanger, who apparently has seen fit to make himself the arbiter of how to raise a family without the possibility of mental illness, drug use, or other ills of society creeping in) are responding to the ACTIONS the father took when attacked by his son, which is a different part of the equation. A real tragedy, however it came to be, and I have no doubt that the father will carry the weight of what he had to do for the rest of his life.

  • Img_0103_max50


    about 3 years ago


    okami...You have no right to come on this site, and spew what amounts to be a lot of UNDESRVED ACCUSATIONS..!!!!!!! This is niether the time nor the place for your liberal bash the cop BS..!!!!!!@#$%^&()_)-%#@(_...!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So keep you TROLL ASS COMMENTS TO YOUR SELF.........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • -0-_max50


    about 3 years ago


    i withhold judgment until further investigation. i've known plenty of fathers, including police officers, who have regularly beaten their children, or made them feel worthless in other ways. being made to feel worthless repeatedly ends up with believing you're worthless; i've seen it happen too many times professionally and personally. blaming the kid is a cop-out at this point. from the report, the child had made comments about harming himself. why? how did he get in that state? it doesn't suddenly show up out of the blue. why wasn't anything done about it?

    there's more here than meets the eye.

  • Img_0103_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'

  • Ali_flyer_theater_show_pico_max50


    about 3 years ago


    its my hope you can forgive your self and know you did the right thing in that situation. Teenagers these day have no respect for their elders and they try to hurt them with out regards to their feelings. My God Bless you and your family.

  • 2152_2664_008_edited-1_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Prayers go out to a brother Officer and his family.

    Just FYI, a subject with a knife can close distance to an officer really quick, leaving very little reaction time, hence why he might have injuries, just so you know.

  • Swat_pictures_031_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My heart goes out to Lt. Schmitz. He will need the support of his friends as he struggles with the emotions. Stay strong Brother, and lean on your Brothers and Sisters in Blue.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    It is extremely sad and tragic for 2 reasons. 1 - That a son would attack his father with a knife with the apparent intent of killing his father. 2 That his father had to shoot and Kill his son to defend himself. I can't imagine the pain that this man and father is going through. Having shot and killed his son. .

  • White_shirt_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Very Sad.

  • Jeep-smiley-face_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Tragic thing to have to live with. Grace and Mercy to you!

  • Jsoc_max50


    about 3 years ago


    prayers out to all touched by this event

  • Pics_for_sites_002_max50


    about 3 years ago


    I can't even imagine having to shoot one of your own son's... Hope the LT make a full recovery...

  • Policesupport_ribbon_max50


    about 3 years ago


    It's so easy for people to sit back, judge and point fingers without even knowing all the details, the whole story and/or background. Not to mention they have likely never been in this officer's shoes. Perceptions are funny in that they reflect our internal content of who we are as a person as well as an inner view of the world around us based on our personal experiences, emotions and prejudices. Regardless, this is a tragedy anyway you choose to look at it. I pray for this family and hope that the whole truth will come out soon so the healing can begin.

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    about 3 years ago


    My prayers got out to the family. May they find peace.
    NYRanger...there is a special place in HELL for you. I pray you are not a LEO, obviously you have not the mental capabilities required to function properly.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    This was truly a sad situation. Prayers for LT and his family. Newyorkranger, you apparently are not properly trained in law enforcement and I seriously hope you get the proper training before you ever go on the street. You do NOT make such a rash judgment before having all of the facts. And you do NOT ASSume facts not in evidence. If you knew half of what has been revealed, this "child" had been INVOLUNTARILY committed to a mental health facility for 13 days just prior to this incident. He had been the cause of Police involvement at the home several times before. I was the child of a Police Officer and the Police Officer father of children. I have seen and arrested the criminal children of Police Officers. My own partner's daughter is currently "in the system" while his son is already a highly respected LEO himself. So before you spout off like a not-wit politician again, say a prayer for this Officer and his family. They are living in hell right now and need the comfort our support will give.

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