Shortly after reaching the podium, Jennifer Griffin shared fellow officers’ memories of Christopher Fitzgerald, including the fact that he was a Doja Cat fan and would listen to her music in TUPD cruisers while patrolling the west side of Temple’s Main Campus.
“The officer said that Fitz would sing Doja Cat at the top of his lungs, and then look at him afterwards and say ‘Jeff, what do you think of Doja Cat’,” said Griffin, Temple University’s vice president for public safety.
Griffin’s story garnered laughter from the audience — a brief, lighthearted moment during a somber funeral service.
State politicians, police officers and hundreds of Philadelphians paid homage to Officer Christopher Fitzgerald on Friday at a funeral at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Race Street near 18th. Fitzgerald was the first member of the Temple University Police Department to be killed in the line of duty.
Fitzgerald was fatally shot on Feb. 18 while attempting to apprehend a carjacking suspect on 17th Street near Montgomery Avenue. The Temple community mourned his death this past week with dedications, like a Tuesday vigil at the Bell Tower and a memorial along Montgomery Avenue covered with candles, stuffed animals and pictures of the fallen officer.
Fitzgerald’s casket arrived at the cathedral early Friday morning, surrounded by an honor guard of police officers and flanked with an American flag.
Prior to the service beginning later in the morning, state and local law enforcement arrived at the cathedral. They were later joined by politicians like Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, State Rep. Amen Brown and members of Temple administration, including President Jason Wingard, Griffin and Arthur Johnson, the university’s vice president and director of athletics.
The service began with a hymn, followed by a eulogy from Shapiro who acknowledged Marissa Fizgerald, Christopher’s wife, for strength in her speech at the Bell Tower during the university’s vigil.
“I offer you the deepest, more heartfelt condolences on behalf of 13 million Pennsylvanians that mourn with you,” Shapiro said. “I pray that you will be comforted by this outpouring of love, of admiration and of deep appreciation for your husband’s service. “
Shapiro also acknowledged the need to combat gun violence in Pennsylvania, while supporting local law enforcement.
“Don’t shed a tear here at Chris’s funeral and then refuse to do the hard work necessary to support our police and our community every other day,” Shapiro added.
The governor’s speech was followed by remarks from Brown who spoke about Fitzgerald’s commitment to serving the Temple community.
“As we reflect on his life and his legacy, one phrase comes to mind — the heart of a hero,” Brown said.
Griffin told funny stories from patrols and the fallen officer’s sense of humor and also emphasized the need to provide resources to support police officers’ mental health.
Griffin ended her remarks by announcing TUPD’s decision to posthumously promote Fitzgerald to the rank of sergeant, which generated applause from attendees.
The event continued with remarks from Fitzgerald’s family, Temple police officers and prayers from religious leaders from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Pastor Juan Marrero, Fitzgerald’s pastor and uncle, delivered final emotional remarks that generated applause from the audience.
“Although tragically taken too soon, he still fought a good fight, he still finished his race, he has kept the faith and is now receiving the rewards that are due him,” Marrero said.
The service concluded with hymns and prayers for Fitzgerald and his family before a procession of police officers lined up and exited the cathedral. The late officer’s interment will take place Friday immediately following the service