Slain Pa. university police officer started LE career as a corrections officer
"He was just the best. He was just a great police officer who advocated for a safer city that he grew up in," an officer said
By Rita Giordano
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PHILADELPHIA — On duty and off duty, Temple Police Officer Christopher Fitzgerald was all about trying to make his city a better place, a safer place.
As part of a running group designed to encourage young people to pursue a more positive life path, Fitzgerald would carry the Stop the Violence banner.
“Chris would say, ‘If we can get one person to put the gun down, one person to think twice before pulling the trigger,” Eric Finger, a vice captain of Black Men Run, recalled one day after, police say, an 18-year-old Bucks County man shot Fitzgerald to death while the officer was on duty.
You could say law enforcement was in Fitzgerald’s blood.
Both his parents, Joel and Pauline Fitzgerald, are former Philadelphia police officers. After 17 years with the Philadelphia force, Joel Fitzgerald went to work for the city Sheriff’s Office, and then to several high-profile positions in several other cities, before becoming Denver’s chief of police and emergency management for the city’s Regional Transportation District.
At the beginning of his law enforcement career, Christopher Fitzgerald also worked outside Philadelphia, including as a corrections officer in Allentown. But the young man with the Phillies’ red “P” tattooed on his right biceps and known for his loyalty wanted to serve the city he called home.
So the alumnus of Franklin Towne Charter School joined the Housing Authority Police, and the Sheriff’s Office, before becoming a police officer for Temple University in October 2021.
[EARLIER: Suspect arrested in slaying of Pa. university police officer]
Friends say he was devoted to wife Marissa and to his four children, ages 14 to 7. The couple’s Facebook pages are full of photos from their wedding and other happy times together.
The young man who loved his family and policing also showed a passion for the greater community, especially young people.
“Chris was always there,” Temple University Police Association president Alec Shaffer said. ”He was the first one there to volunteer and interact with the children.”
Officer Jeffrey McKee and Fitzgerald joined the force at the same time. They became partners.
“Simply, he was just the best,” McKee said. “He was just a great police officer who advocated for a safer city that he grew up in.”
In fact, Fitzgerald got McKee involved in one of his other passions — running — and using it for the greater good.
For the last two summers, the Swagga House Run Club, which Fitzgerald was a member of, and Black Men Run Philly, both groups of prominently Black and Latino male runners, did a project called Hood2Hood. The members ran through some of the city’s neighborhoods most affected by gun violence to encourage young people to turn to more positive pursuits.
Sunday, members of that brotherhood turned out to the impromptu shrine that had been erected near where Fitzgerald was shot. They left a pair of running shoes and a jersey in his honor.
“He cared about the community more than himself,” said Joshua Perez, an inspector with the Sheriff’s Department who worked with Fitzgerald, an officer 20 years his junior. He also ran with Fitzgerald in the Swagga House club.
He and Fitzgerald talked several times a week.
“We made it normal for us to say, ‘Love you’ between two men,” he said. Often the call would end with Perez warning his friend, “Little Bro, love you. Don’t be a f— hero. Those were my exact words. He’d say, ‘Big Bro, I got you.’ Sadly, that conversation didn’t happen yesterday.”
Finger, from Black Men Run, said that maybe Fitzgerald’s hope — making a would-be shooter stop and think — could still happen.
“I hope somebody will see this,” Finger said, “see the amount of hurt caused, and see the amount of work he did in the community, and possibly just think twice before making that decision.”
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