'Chris is a hero': Family, friends mourn Temple University officer killed in the line of duty
NORTH PHILADELPHIA - Temple University’s Vice President for Public Safety released a statement Sunday, regarding the shooting death of Officer Fitzgerald, reading, in part:
"Officer Fitzgerald gave his life to selflessly serve and defend this community. The courage and bravery he displayed highlights the day-to-day sacrifice made by our Temple University police officers to keep our community safe. This loss leaves an enormous hole in all of our hearts. He was a father, a husband, a son, a colleague and a friend."
A memorial is growing at the shooting scene near 17th and Montgomery and some who knew Officer Fitzgerald best are trying to come to terms with what happened.
Family and friends of slain Temple University Officer Chris Fitzgerald overcome by their grief, came out to remember the father of five who did so much for others.
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"Chris was one of a kind. He wanted to make a difference in the community and he did that by always, always aspiring to be the best," stated Fitzgerald’s friend Joshua Perez.
"Chris would do anything…anything," said Fitzgerald’s cousin, Juan Marrero. "He would go beyond for his community. He had the chance to leave Philadelphia, but he chose to stay here."
Juan Marrero, the cousin of Officer Fitzgerald, told FOX 29's Kelly Rule that Fitzgerald would stop by his home after his shift and shine a light through his window to let him know that he was safe.
"It's heartbreaking because I can't get that back, they took somebody special," Marrero said. "He was my idol, he was everything I wanted to be."
Even strangers came to pay their respects and show gratitude. Kimberly Sawyer’s daughter goes to Temple and says she was so relieved her daughter made it home alive Saturday night.
"I owe this officer a thank you, because when I see them on campus, I know she’s in good hands. This is what they signed up to do and the least I can do is show up and say thank you for it," Sawyer explained. "He is a hero."
Temple students made their way to pay respects at the memorial and say something has to change, because they say the violence is out of control.
"President Wingard is, hopefully, gonna do something because it’s a little embarrassing," said student Zsofia Szilagyi. "There’s violence here every day. Every day."
Student Brooke Zacker added, "I feel like it’s all talk, at this point. We’ve seen no positive change since he was elected our president. If anything, it’s going backwards. It’s been going downhill and a lot of it’s hidden, too. We don’t get to hear about it. It just puts us in more danger, too."
"Temple University police do a great job, but obviously, there is a bigger issue here and I don’t know, I feel like we just need to get the community and the nation talking about it," student Stephanie Roccoberton said.
Officer Fitzgerald’s family is not surprised one bit that he did not run from danger, but jumped in to help.
"That’s just what he does. He’s a superhero. That’s what he does. Chris is a hero, he just doesn’t have his cape."
Temple University President Jason Wingard released a statement to the Temple University late Saturday night, commenting on the ongoing gun violence in the city and beyond.
"This loss comes at a time when gun violence continues its horrific impact on our city and our country. Philadelphia and the nation are dealing with an unprecedented epidemic of violence, and the tragedy that took place tonight is a gut-wrenching reminder of our police officers’ daily bravery and sacrifices to protect our students, faculty, staff and community," the statement read in part.
Wingard's message also included resources for any members of the community who may have been impacted via Tuttleman Counseling Services, located at 1700 N. Broad St. For information. Those in need can also call 215-204-7276 or visit the Tuttleman Counseling Services website.
A GoFundMe has also been created by the police association on behalf of Fitzgerald's family to gather donations.
Click here to find resources for victims of violence in Philadelphia.