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REGAN: Mandatory Death Sentence for Murdering a Police Officer

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.


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Officer Fitzgerald’s Father Urges Temple Family: ‘Make His Life Mean Something’

The bustling Temple University campus came to a stop Tuesday afternoon to remember the life of Officer Christopher “Fitz” Fitzgerald during a vigil at the Bell Tower.

A sea of students from football players to theater majors gathered to pay their respects to the 31-year-old Temple Police officer who, according to those close to him, died doing what he loved: Protecting the Temple family. He was the first member of the Temple force killed in the line of duty.

Bucks County resident Miles Pfeffer, 18, allegedly shot Fitzgerald Saturday night as the officer tried to stop three people in a robbery just off the Temple campus. Pfeffer disregarded Fitzgerald’s commands, shooting Fitzgerald in the head and then firing several more shots into his face, according to an affidavit.

U.S. Marshals took Pfeffer into custody at his  Buckingham Township home on Sunday morning.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first vigil we have held on campus,” said Temple Senior Vice President and Provost Gregory Mandell, who noted in 16 years it was by far the biggest crowd he had seen.

Officer Christopher Fitzgerald

“What took place Saturday night was a testament to his selflessness and today was an apt tribute and testimony to his life,” Mandell said.

Strong wind threatened the opening of the ceremony, sending the tent adorning the podium ripping through the crowd. Moments later someone in the audience tried to disrupt the ceremony, prompting a quick scuffle with members of the Fitzgerald family. After the protestor was escorted out, the service began.

The afternoon’s first speaker, Quaiser Abdullah, a communications professor and a chaplain with the Philadelphia Police Department, delivered a eulogy.

“What happened to Fitz is a glaring reminder that life is temporary,” Abdullah said, as members of the Temple Police Department looked on from the front row.

University President Jason Wingard urged the Temple community to bring meaning to Fitzgerald’s values, to return “to a place where love abides.”

“One of our deepest fears became true but what it can teach us is compassion,” Wingard said. “You all gather here every day to make the world a better place, to elevate yourselves path of dissent is the path of transformation.”

The most emotional moment came when Marissa Fitzgerald, the officer’s widow, addressed the crowd. “My life will never be the same,” she said of her husband and father of four children. “He did what he had to do for you [Temple students] to not have to hear a gunshot.”

Taylor Warren, a freshman studying media studies production and whose mother is also a Temple police officer, thought the vigil was an important healing moment for the university.

“I came here to pay my respect to him and my family,” Warren said.

Fitzgerald’s father, Joel Fitzgerald, Sr. served as a Philadelphia police officer for 17 years. He spoke about the example his son set for the Temple community.

“He took guns off the street for you, so I ask you to pay it forward. What will save this country is you who came here today to celebrate our son’s life.”

And he urged the students, “Make his life mean something.”


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