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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.”

  • Photo_user_blank_big_max50


    about 4 years ago


    My heart goes out to the family and specifically the father. I can't even imagine the heartache he must be going through. I agree with T_9. For those not in Law enforcement how about NOT making assumptions about training that you do not know if the officer had, but training you know nothing about anyway.

  • Screen_shot_2011-04-10_at_8


    about 4 years ago


    Prayers to the family and all involved. I have no comment for those who wish to Monday-morning quarterback the actions of another when they were not there, and when they do not have any experience as a LEO.

  • Me_max50


    about 4 years ago


    My thoughts and prayers go out to the LT and his family. As a mother of 5 I can't even begin to imagine what he and his family must be going through.

  • 10954533_10152768417768138_2117542071882865207_n_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I will keep my fingers away from this one.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    Seems awfully fishy to me. I don't know the full details, and I am no detective, but the father was treated for injuries from the attack. This implies the son got close enough to the father to inflict harm. As this man is apparently so high in his department, one would hope he has received training in unarmed combat and how to disarm an opponent. I truly hope that the son's right to live is not fully dismissed and that the police adequately investigate why the father was unable to disarm or non-fatally incapacitate the son.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    Prayers for all involved in this sad situation.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    about 4 years ago


    I sincerely hope and pray none of us is EVER in this same position. I can't imagine having to go through this. My prayers go to this family and the friends of the Lt. and his son.

  • 70748_max50


    about 4 years ago


    How sad....Praying for the officer/father. I could never imagine having to shoot my child in self defense!

  • Snapshot_20111212_9_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Stay strong Lt. Prayers to the family and I hope his son Rests in Peace.

  • Randy_edited_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Eph 6:2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.

    The above quote is not my words, but the Lord's! Based on what we have, thus far, been told; not much honor in attacking your father with a hunting knife! And the result - life is cut short! A person who has endured and maintains training is going to "react" accordingly in a short moment and will have forever to live with the result for the rest of their life with what happened. This is the nature of the territory for one who decides to wear the shield.

    During Old Testament times when children spoke evil of their parents, they were - by God's command - to be stoned to death, and the parents were to cast the first stone! An incident like this hits home with how hard such a thing was (is). I often wonder how anybody can, for even a moment, imagine what they would or wouldn't do in another person's situation? This situation is a sad one; one I will take to God in prayer on behalf of this officer and father.

  • Img_0933_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Condolences Lt. Schmitz and his family.

  • Uniphone1_max50


    about 4 years ago


    The LT will grieve in a way that hopefully none of us will ever know, and will likely NEVER recover from this.......I'll pray for him. What a terribly tragic event!!

    "Train for the Fight"

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    I had to investigate the non-fatal shooting of a son by his father. The father was protecting his family from his son, a drug addict with mental problems. The kid, really a young man of 22, went after his father and mother with a butcher knife. The dad shot him in the hip. Even though he knew his kid was medically out of danger, dad took having to shoot one of his kids very hard. I eventually arrested the kid for false imprisonment and ADW. That he saved his wife and other kids didn't lessen this man's remorse and guilt. I pray for the LT and his family.

  • Car_004_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I posted earlier and this is just a thought for those that say they would die at the hand of their child before killing the child or use lesser means. If the Lt would have let his son take his life we would have one dead cop and possibly other family members, possible another officer that has to take the boy into custody, psooibly a suicide by the boy (then two deaths for the family) and or a dead cop and a boy in prison for life. I wish this would have never happened but seeing it did, this is probibly the best outcome other than never being in the situation at all. The boy made his decision and the LT acted and survived, possibly saving others from injury or death. God Bless You and your Family LT. The LT will be dealing with this for the rest of his life and I pray he finds peace and can continue to survive this tragity. Do you actually think the LT will not question himself and his actions for the rest of his life? I only pray he gets the support and help he needs so this does not cause him to do anything to himself. Find strength in those of us that understand LT, Find strength in God.

  • Granny_hair_max50


    about 4 years ago


    My heart goes out to the Lt and his family. I can't imagine what they must be going through, with the loss of their son.
    For those saying what they would do in that same situation, I ask if you have ever been? If not, please don't put blame or pass judgement.
    It's simply a sad case, a teen has lost his life and a family has lost their loved one. God alone will need to handle this one!

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