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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.”

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max160_max50


    about 3 years ago

    216 Comments have some serious growing up to do. Police officers usually only see the dregs of society and do not recognize that the vast majority of people are good and decent. The same goes for the kids. We don't know that this situation is the result of bad parenting. We do know that the family tried to get their kid professional help, but that help was not enough to overcome the demons that this kid was dealing with.

  • 101_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My prayers are with you and your family.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    A lot can be the responsibility of the latest trend in reality TV, movies and radio. After raising two children to adult ages, I found the younger generation tend to believe that the movies they see are real, including the characters to be real persons, instead of actors. Most recently in the last two-three years, youth became fanatical about certain movies starring "vampires" and other such fantasy themes...thinking they are real. They need heroes and those characters seem to be filling the void lately, instead of family.

    The most troubling conversation I heard recently on a popular radio talk show; a young man was asked how he intended to build his retirement funds for the future? Guess what he said? He explained that he isn't worried about the future, because he is going to spend and spend...because the world is coming to an end in 2012 anyway!

    So, parents and community leaders, please spend the time and encourage schools and theatre to post disclaimers in LARGE LETTERS, that the extreme movies or TV production they are about to watch are played by actors and actresses and are fictional, NOT real! Movie theatres need to post security and ID checks for "R" rated movies and not allow parents to have their young children accompany them into the movies.

  • Untitled_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Tragic. Prayers for the family. Im sure that had to be a very hard thing to do. I agree with you Radier11. Sad all of the way around

  • Illegal_max50


    about 3 years ago


    The very best people can become ill, and some recover, some do not. To take the life of a human being is the very last resort, to take the life of someone whom you gave life is the worst thing on earth. Violently I might add. It appears this poor man had a choice to make, live or die, he chose life. I believe it was the correct decision, and while none of this turns out happy no matter what. We can say that this child's internal suffering has ended, and sadly as it was, no one else will be hurt/injured at his hand. Just something I hope no man or woman every has to face.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    An absolute nightmare for an officer, but most of all as a parent. As a 20 year officer & the father of a 17 year old son, my heart goes out to this dad. May he find comfort during this trying time.

  • Big_mo_max50


    about 3 years ago


    How tragic! Prayers and thoughts go out to the family.

  • Caduceus_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Sad, very sad. I like to have more information on this incident.

  • Policememorial---a_max50


    about 3 years ago


    My condolences to the family and to this officer, this could not have been an easy thing for him to do and I hope God will give them the solace they needs to get through this.

  • Respect_max50


    about 3 years ago


    @ trooper, good comment concerning newyorkranger16's post. good parents do produce bad children, and anyone who stands in judgment is wrong themselves. I have seen good decent people produce the dregs of society...I've seen those good people do everything they can until finally, they give up on their children. They tried and tried to correct, and it didn't work. They went the counseling route, and it didn't work. What else was this guy supposed to do? Im sure he finds no peace in knowing that he shot his own son. And for MockTertl, we don't know what really happened here, but we do know this kid amped up to deadly force...maybe the father did what he had to do.....maybe "maiming" wasn't an option? Anyway you look at it, it's tragic. Thoughts to this officer.....

  • Iraqcampaignmedal-ribbon_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Newyorkranger, I used to think the same way but being a parent who has tried to a child/teenager to the best of my ability and having them turn out to be volatle had changed my mind on this. I don't know if kids/teens are wired differently than we were at that age but they don't think before they do anything and the consequences don't matter to them. They are angry at everyone, think they are entitled to everything and are likely to "snap" when they don't get what they think they are entitled to. Is this all of them? I surely hope not but I see this more and more everyday on the street and in my on home. Self protection is my right, on the street and in my home. I hate that the father of this teen will have to live with this the rest of his life, but he has a life. Sounds like he reacted to a situation that he was unwillingly thrown into. Don't be to quick to judge if you haven't been there.

  • Illegal_max50


    about 3 years ago


    Interesting comments on this one. Has this been a man on the street attacking him with a knife, every comment would be "Great Job, good shoot, nice work..." Followed with, he should have never allowed someone that close to him with a knife, and he needs more training... Obviously he didnt want it to end this way, or he would not have been treated for injuries. Not trying to say any of your thoughts posted are wrong in anyway, how absolutely horrible this whole thing is, but fear for your life is fear for your life, people can surprise you. I could NEVER imagine having to do this, and for this to be a last resort, it is just hearbreaking all the way around. To late to point fingers now, a child is dead, obviously a very sick child. Prayers with the family, friends and community. So sad.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 3 years ago


    I hop this family can turn to God and find peace. Such a tragic incident and such sad circumstances. My prayers are with th Lt. and hif family

  • 10


    about 3 years ago


    o that is so sad ... being a single parent who has been attacked by my child in this way ... I didn't use or need a gun - being my child, a child, the thought never even crossed my mind that would be a useful and warranted method of self defense ... why could he not have maimed the kid instead? he has a gun ... good officer or not, having been faced with this difficulty myself, death was not the answer ... just an avoidable tragedy and a young life cut short

  • Thumbs_pscoa_20star_max50


    about 3 years ago


    my prayers are with you Lt. schmitz

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