Family of slain Temple University officer condemns DA Krasner's decision not to pursue death penalty

Nearly a year and a half after a Temple University officer was killed in the line of duty, his family continues to call for justice in the murder of the beloved husband and father.

Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald was fatally shot on February 18, 2023, during a struggle with 18-year-old Miles Pfeffer, who police say continued to shoot as Fitzgerald laid on the ground.

On Wednesday, the slain officer's family released a statement through their attorney condemning Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner for his "devastating" decision not to pursue the death penalty against the alleged killer.

"We have watched in shame as Krasner cherry-picks select members of marginalized communities to provide their support and continues to allow criminals to return to the streets and reoffend," the family said. "We can no longer stand idly by while other elected members of the city stand mute on this topic. Despite any best laid plans for a safer city, we question how that reality can be achieved when you feign a working partnership with someone like Krasner who subverts your goals."

"How can you not think that this case doesn’t deserve the death penalty? I just don’t understand it," Marissa Fitzgerald, Sgt. Fitzgerald’s widow, questioned.

Sgt. Fitzgerald’s mother, Pauline, continued, speaking of Krasner, "He told us who he was the first time we met with him. He told us he didn’t believe in the death penalty, but that he was going to be nonbiased."


Family of slain Temple University officer Sgt. Fitzgerald file civil lawsuit against alleged killer's parents

The lawsuit alleges Pfeffer's mother, her boyfriend and Pfeffer's father knew about his "mental instability, propensity for violence, and interest in firearms," and did nothing to stop him.

The family's attorney also said that they were informed of the final decision by another prosecutor, and that Krasner denied their request to directly appeal his decision personally the day before Pfeffer's arraignment, instead communicating through a statement.

In court Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore officially stated that the DA's Office would not be seeking the death penalty. Pfeffer, who was not in court for the arraignment, entered a plea of not guilty through his attorney. 

When contacted about the decision, a spokesperson for the DA's Office says the decision not to seek the death penalty against Pfeffer in Fitzgerald's murder was made after "extensive input over many hours" from the officer's family as well as experts.

"The input of the family is deeply appreciated and was carefully considered by the committee and DA Krasner prior to his decision.  The DAO looks forward to continuing to support the family’s needs and to vigorously prosecuting this terrible murder."


'Chris is a hero': Family, friends mourn Temple University officer killed in the line of duty

Family and friends of slain Temple University Officer Chris Fitzgerald, overcome by their grief, came out to remember the husband and father of five who did so much for others.

Sgt. Fitzgerald’s partner, Jeffrey McKee, said they had an inseparable bond. He added, "There’s a clear message there that if you are a police officer within the city of Philadelphia and a criminal comes to Philadelphia and decides to murder a police officer, that there are no consequences for those actions."

Joel Fitzgerald, father of the slain officer, stated, "The highest punishment available to a judge or jury to consider will never be offered to them and that’s the problem. We feel that Krasner should step down or be put to a recall vote." 

The Fitzgeralds, along with the Philadelphia FOP Lodge 5, Temple University Police Association and PA State FOP, are now calling for Philadelphia to recall the DA, and appealing for Special Prosecutor Michael Untermeyer to adopt the case.

"They ask all Philadelphians to think of the danger created for our community when a DA allows a personal crusade to prevent ‘a jury’ from even ‘considering’ pursing justice to its lawful extent."