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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.”


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    JayRock1980

    almost 3 years ago

    32 Comments

    That poor daddy. Heart goes out to him. "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33)

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    SkoolCop

    almost 3 years ago

    4534 Comments

    This is very sad. So often, we go into other homes to fix the problems that took a lifetime to create. We don't ever think that these same problems could come knocking at our door. No disrespect intended but there appears to be some very deep rooted problems that came to a tragic end. Condolences to all involved, especially to the father who was forced to take the life of his own son.

  • Img_3413_sq90_max50

    cops1521

    almost 3 years ago

    1000 Comments

    newyorkranger, as a victim advocate for a PD, I deal with numerous cases where the child many now grown have either a mental health issue a drug issue and/or an alcohol issue. To say a child wouldn't do that if they came from a good background shows total denial. I hope it never happens to you but because you think your child would never end up like this only shows me from my experience that you could end up becoming a victim.

    For those questioning whether he should have shot him, would you be asking that if it was a stranger and not his son? I doubt it, you would be saying what a great job he did. Just a few months ago, we buried a Deputy nearby that was shot and killed by his son during an argument. The Deputy and his wife had done everything they could have to try to help their son but ultimately the son made the decisions, they were definitely the wrong ones and that led to the day he killed his Father. If the Lt in this article hadn't killed his son, we could be mourning the loss of the Lt's life.

    It is never easy when a LEO takes the life of anyone...I know that because i've talked with those who have had to do it, but I can only imagine the pain and suffering and trauma the Lt is going through with not only taking a life, but the life being that of his son.

    The Lt and family is in my thoughts and prayers.

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    foxblood

    almost 3 years ago

    396 Comments

    It’s very sad, and to agree. I say good job, well done. Because you never attack a LEO. At least the LEO is ok. If a person tried to attack a LEO in the LEO’s home, this would be a good out come. Even if it was a raid and a dealer tried to defend his home in a state of shock, a LEO alive and the dealer dead would be a good outcome. It’s just a sad story though. But that was his training.. you get threatened with violence, you must execute greater violence and dominate the situation, even if it results in death. That’s the LEO way. It’s sad because he can’t turn a blind eye the feelings of the deceased’s family in this particular case. My heart goes out to this guy. Really crappy situation.

  • Me_max50

    ladycop2

    almost 3 years ago

    22 Comments

    How tragic. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family. Hang in there. Stay safe all.

  • Sheriffsstarimage001_max50

    VADeputy

    almost 3 years ago

    14 Comments

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Lt, the family, his son's friends and the community, most especially I would pray for some of the responses posted here, many by people who have never faced what some have faced, were not there and have no idea how they would really act when there is no choice but to defend yourself or others. To claim they would rather die first is not realistic with everything I have seen, read and been trained and I do not believe they can know for sure unless they are faced with what this father was.

    May He who created us, who knew us before we were born and who loves us as His children, bring peace, strength, comfort, understand and love to the family, the community and to those who face this danger daily.

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    KarenLee

    almost 3 years ago

    3856 Comments

    Bump SERT and Glock...We cannot judge Lt Schmitz for what he chose to do,and we cannot say what different measures we would have taken, until it actually happens to us.It's over and done, and there is nothing we can say to change the outcome of this. Lt Schmitz has to live with this for the rest of his life, and I wish him Godspeed in his long journey to recovery from this.

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    Jerseygirl1951

    almost 3 years ago

    8 Comments

    This is a terrible tragedy for the Lt. and his family. My prayers goes out to the family. May God give these people strength and understanding of the tragic circumstances surrounding this troubling and painful decision that had to be made probably at a moments notice.

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    Glock10mmForMe

    almost 3 years ago

    66 Comments

    Horrible comments from newyorkranger16. :-( Those who think that Lt Schmitz should have resorted to less lethal means, could it be that for whatever reason, hi s gun was handy and those means were not? Many upper echelon officers only carry the gun handcuffs and extra ammo when on duty. The OC, tasers, and such are often looked at as extra gear that may be unnecessarily intimidating to the public they deal with, frequently on more peaceful terms than what the street cop does. Not saying I agree with that mindset, but I have found it to be fairly common. In many departments, tasers (if issued at all) are issued to front line patrolmen and supervisors only and often sparingly due to budgetary considerations. To say you hope this officer never finds peace from this horrible event is disgusting. No one but Lt Schmitz knows what he went through with his son. I feel for him and pray that he finds inner peace from the hell he is now going through. While this may be cold of me to say, if the boy was so out of control that he would attack his own father with a hunting knife, inflicting injury, he was a danger to the community the same as any street thug who so attacked any one of you would be. Lt Schmitz may well have saved the lives or health of other citizens or police officers by this act, the same as any citizen or police officer who shoots a violent thug attacking them does. Lt Schmitz deserves our respect, our good thoughts, and our gratitude, NOT condemnation.

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    APD526

    almost 3 years ago

    38 Comments

    newyorkranger16-Here in the real world, many bad kids come from good parents. I've seen many good kids come from bad parents. There is no set rule book that says 1 can't come from the other.... Having said that, we don't know what Lt. Schmitz endured during the attack before making that final decision. May GOD help him and his family. And in today's world, GOD HELP US ALL!

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    BlueBlood4617

    almost 3 years ago

    78 Comments

    Terrible situation and I feel very sorry for the officer. It isn't easy doing what you were forced to do and it mist be unimaginably worse when it's your own family that forced your hand. I support you and pray that you find peace in this difficult time. As for those of you that are so quick to condemn him (southiebev and newyorkranger) shame on you. This suspect, thats right suspect, knowingly took a very dangerous weapon and obviously had no regard for the life of his father, why should the father show any more regard for him. He took advantage of the relationship and trusted that his father would be a victim rather than defend himself, and that's his problem, not the officers. You don't want to be shot, you do not attack a police officer with a knife. Shame on that kid for forcing his fathers hand. I support the officer and say that kid not only asked for this outcome but begged for it when he chose to do what he did. We go home at night, regardless of who it is standing in the way. If it hadn't been this officer I'm sure it would have been another one the first time this kid was told something he didn't want to hear. I'm glad the officer was not hurt worse and that someone with such an obvious disrespect for human life is no longer around to be a threat to anyone else.

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    salarson272

    almost 3 years ago

    18 Comments

    It would be extremely hard to shoot my own son, I know I definitely pepper spray the crap out of him before I would shoot.

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    SERT0629

    almost 3 years ago

    474 Comments

    How can any of you judge this man. You weren't there for the event therefore you cannot say he is a bad parent. We are all trained to remember our training when faced with an attack and he did (though through sad consequences) it had to be his own flesh and blood.

    And to "newyorkranger"...you sicken me. Saying to let the son kill the father before he kills the son. And mourn the loss of another officer who protects YOU and ME.

  • Me_max50

    lemmonw

    almost 3 years ago

    464 Comments

    Terrible situation. I hope peace can come to Lt. Schmitz...

  • Imag0190_max50

    OS441

    almost 3 years ago

    1038 Comments

    We had a Chief in this County, years ago, who had to shoot his son in response to a Domestic Violence case. It was a tragic day for the Community.

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