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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


    about 4 years ago


    As a police officer and faced with the possibilty of useing deadly force daily, I never pondered having to use that final step in the force continuum on a member of my own family. I can not fathom what pain you must be feeling to have to call on that as a last resort. My heart breaks for you and your family Sir. I know if your son was troubled enough to force his own father's hand to such measures, he must have been a very troubled soul and I pray that he is at rest and you find the peace knowing that. God bless you LT.


  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    It tares at your heart .Need I say more.......

  • Eagle_avatar_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Very Tragic situation!!! My prayers go out to the entire family!!!

    Like copeswife260, I am appalled at some of the arm chair quarterbacking comments! I'm a Father and a Grandfather. I have no clue what I would have done in that situation, none of us do! We don't know the circumstances of the incident. The "child" in this article was a 17 year old young man, not a toddler. Don't lose sight of that. Regardless of what happened, how it happened, any emotional or psychological issues the 17 year old had, the help they tried to get for him; one thing still remains. A Father Lost A Son!!! Period.

  • Bodysurfing_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Deepest condolences to Lt. Schmitz and his family for the loss of their son. Deepest sympathy to Stephen's friends. May God comfort you all.

  • Img-20110512-00019_max50


    about 4 years ago


    First off I want to say, My thoughts and Prayers go with the Lt. and his family. I can not even imagine being in the situation. Second, this is for SOUTHIEBEV. I dont know you and after your comment I dont want too. Do you work in this line of work? Because if you do. You would not have made such a BAD comment. You have no right to second guessing the events of what happened and how the LT reacted. You are just another LEO hater in my opinion.

  • 2011_range_day_2-19-10_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Oh Lord. Condolences, thoughts and prayers to all involved. There's a growing number of kids killing parents these days, we had one just happened a few months ago in a neighboring county. 14 year old juv shot and killed both his parents for no evident reasons. no history of abuse or anything. Cold hearted!

  • Vpsomourningband_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Bump copswife260. My prayers to the family and may Stephen rest in peace.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 4 years ago


    God be with you Sir, Prayers and thoughts go out to you and your family, it appears you did what you could to help him, This is very tragic.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    What a terrible tragedy for this family. After being an officer and a parent I don't know what I would have done in that situation. I pray for this family to stick together and pull through this. Lots of prayers and thoughts for this family.

  • Police-dog-5_max50


    about 4 years ago


    First off, may god be with the family. Sounds like the father tried to help his son and was not getting any where. I am sure that this was his very last way to help. Yes, it sounds very rude and not nice.
    But think of it this way, he tried to help before and didn't get to fare. At least know he is in a safe place and can not hurt any one else. So what I am saying is that he helped his son and posibly saved others from geting hurt and/or killed.
    Yes, as I am a father this is a very sad thing for any parent to do.

  • Img_20111016_163737_max50


    about 4 years ago


    wow, this is just a worse possible situation.

  • Patches1_max50


    about 4 years ago



  • Group_photo_at_shelter_max50


    about 4 years ago


    No one can understand until you have been there. When my son was 17 we had to press charges against him because he was making threats towards us. He said he was going to kill us. He had a knife pointed at us. The difference was my son was mentally handicapped but the system was failing us and not helping us. The day we went before the judge he sentenced him to 2 weeks in a detention center. the mental health people said he will not spend the night in jail. we will get him out... do you think they got him out.. No they did not.. They told us he was not a threat to any one so my mentally handicapped son spent 2 weeks in jail... after that he was sent back home to me and the judge dropped the charges.. Do you think we got any help... No.. we had to live in fear till he turned 18 then any one and every one was ready to help us...Today he is 27 years old and we are lucky he is in a group home cause if not he would probally be dead or we would. Before going to the group home he also went to a mental hospital cause he tried to kill me and him by mixing several cleaning products together... He even told the folks at the hospital he wanted me dead.. So like i said you don't know a situation unless you have been there.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    I am reading some of these comments and am appalled. Newyorkranger, I don't know where you have been living, but you need to get a reality check. I have seen parents that have not been fit to reproduce have kids that have turned out to be very upstanding citizens. I have also seen kids that have wonderful parents turn to a life of crime, drugs, and act just like this child did. You are totally mising the point of the article...This man had to kill his child. I hope and pray he finds peace on day. My prayers are with him and his family.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    All I can say is, I have a son, and I would rather that he kill me than me kill him, I love him too much to kill him even if he tried to kill me, I couldnt live anymore if I harmed my son, so I would rather that I died if I was in a similar situation, hopefully I never will be. Must have been some serious problems in that family.

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