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March 31, 2023

North Philly block to be renamed after slain Temple University police officer

Christopher Fitzgerald was fatally shot on West Montgomery Avenue last month while investigating a carjacking

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Christopher Fitzgerald Street Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University

The 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia will be renamed to honor slain Temple University Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, who was fatally shot on duty on Feb. 18. City Council unanimously approved the designation Thursday.

The North Philadelphia block where Temple University Police Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald was shot and killed last month will be renamed in his honor. 

City Council voted unanimously Thursday to designate the 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue as Christopher Fitzgerald Way. The resolution noted that Fitzgerald was known for "his hard work and and dedication to his oath to keep the public safe."

Fitzgerald, who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, was shot and killed shortly after 7 p.m. Feb. 18 while trying to arrest a carjacking suspect near Temple's campus. 

A husband and father of four, Fitzgerald was a member of several advocacy groups to raise awareness about gun violence, the resolution reads. 

"Officer Fitzgerald has served our community proudly," Jennifer Griffin, Temple University's vice president for public safety, said shortly after his death. "His father has shared that he was proud to be a police officer, but that he exceptionally loved being a Temple University police officer. Through his final act as a police officer being proactive in the community that he loved, he was working to change the trajectory of increasing violence in Philadelphia, and now it is up to all of us to continue the work." 

Miles Pfeffer, an 18-year-old from Bucks County, was arrested the day after the killing and now faces murder charges. In the aftermath of Fitzgerald's death, Temple has faced increased criticism of its public safety efforts and the response of leadership. Earlier this week, Temple President Jason Wingard tendered his resignation

Fitzgerald was memorialized during a public funeral service at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in February attended by Griffin, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Rep. Amen Brown and dozens of fellow officers. He was remembered as a hero and "the very best of us," who loved his legacy in law enforcement. 

"Officer Christopher Fitzgerald's senseless death has touched us all," Shapiro said during the funeral. "The tears and the prayers stretch from this great city all the way across our vast commonwealth. I'm keenly aware that no words spoken, no tributes offered can convey the depth of loss that must occupy your (his family's) hearts today. Our words cannot take away from the pain you must endure." 

Temple paid for Fitzgerald's funeral and will cover the tuition for his children if they attend college at Temple. The university's board of trustees has donated more than $450,000 to Temple's Fallen Heroes Fund, which will benefit Fitzgerald's family, and is still collecting donations

On March 8, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency granted Temple University $1.7 million in state funding to upgrade its police department's technology and enhance public safety at the North Philadelphia campus. 

The state grant will allow Temple police to upgrade their gunshot detection and license plate reader technology, and provide funds for officer retention, recruitment bonuses, crisis intervention, de-escalation training, rape aggression defense training and security cameras.

The grant comes as police departments across the country are struggling to recruit and retain officers. After Samuel Collington, a student from Delaware County, was shot and killed near the university's campus in November 2021, outgoing Wingard pledged to increase the police force by 50%.