On Feb. 18, the life of a Temple University police officer was violently and deliberately taken by a young man who shot the officer multiple times in the face and torso. The perpetrator then proceeded to attempt to rob the officer and take his firearm.
Officer Christopher David Fitzgerald, the son of two law enforcement officers, was just 31 years old. He left behind a wife and four children.
Unfortunately, in this commonwealth, we are seeing ever-increasing attacks on law enforcement. Just since the start of this year–in less than two months–there have been seven police officers shot and killed in the line of duty across our nation. Three of those have been in Pennsylvania. That is absolutely unacceptable.
We are also seeing in this commonwealth a growing desire to lean into the criminal. To protect their rights. To make sure their family doesn’t suffer. But what about the victim’s rights and the victim’s family? The gunman chose to sentence Officer Fitzgerald to death on a street in Philadelphia. Why should the gunman not receive the same sentence?
Current law in Pennsylvania provides for either the death penalty or life imprisonment for the first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, which is the intentional killing of an officer while in the performance of duty knowing the victim is a law enforcement officer. I intend to introduce legislation to eliminate the option for life imprisonment. There should be no debate upon conviction of such a heinous and selfish crime.
As a former member of law enforcement, I feel it is my obligation to offer this legislation. It is my hope that taking this hardline approach will provide a proper deterrent to those who prey on and willfully murder the men and women who so bravely serve us.
It is also my hope that Gov. Josh Shapiro–the former top law enforcement officer of the commonwealth when he was attorney general–will consider those lives, the lives of the men and women who serve and protect, over the lives of those who murder.
Just two days before the murder of Officer Fitzgerald, the governor announced he would continue the policy of former Gov. Tom Wolf and not issue any execution warrants during his term. He also called for the legislature to abolish the death penalty saying, “The outcome is irreversible.”
The murder of an innocent life–and in this case, a police officer–at the hands of a criminal is irreversible. It has devastating effects on families and communities.
It is time we show our police officers and their loved ones that we as elected officials stand with them during one of the most violent periods in our commonwealth’s history. Being a law enforcement officer today is more dangerous than ever before, and officers never know if they will return home at the end of the shift. We must do our part to serve and protect those who serve and protect us through this much-needed and long-overdue change to our criminal justice system.