Residents plan to remember fallen officer

The 1700 block of Montgomery Avenue will be named after Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald.

Flowers, candles, pictures and notes are left on the corner on the 1700 block of Montgomery Avenue, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald was killed, which will soon to be named after him. | NATE PULLANO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue will be named Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald Way after the Temple police officer who was fatally shot on Feb. 18. 

The bill to rename the block was introduced on March 23 by City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke who represents the 5th District of Philadelphia, which covers where the shooting occurred.

“Sgt. Fitzgerald will be remembered lovingly by his wife Marissa, four children and a close-knit extended family and for his commitment to his work and community by the Temple University Police Department and the greater Temple community,” Jones wrote in the resolution.

There is no definite date for renaming the street because other city agencies now control the process, said Joe Grace, Clarke’s communications director.

“We had the resolution introduced in City Council to rename that block in honor of Sgt. Chris Fitzgerald as a small gesture to recognize his great sacrifice that he made to protect the people of North Philadelphia and the Temple community,” Clarke wrote, in a statement to The Temple News. “We can never bring Sgt. Fitzgerald back, but we can honor him and keep his memory of service alive with this gesture. That’s why the street renaming is taking place.” 

Temple Police Officer Leroy Wimberly has become a large contributor and organizer for the events and memorials for Sgt. Fitzgerald, and has been working closely with council members to create a large celebration on the day that the block’s name is officially changed.

The date isn’t certain, but Wimberly hopes to have the event sometime before the end of the Spring 2023 semester so the Temple community can enjoy this celebration of life.

“I’m just waiting on confirmation, because it has to be a date where everyone’s available,” Wimberly said. “I want everybody there. I want political, affiliated, TU, I want it big, city police and any other police departments in this country that want to come and support.”

On April 14, Wimberly helped organize a basketball game to commemorate Sgt. Fitzgerald, and has plans to organize similar events for Temple students and the surrounding community to enjoy before the renaming of the block.

“We’re going to work on something else like a softball game or football,” Wimberly said. “Cops and TU football against the kids or we just make up teams.”

Once the event date and details are determined there will be an email sent out inviting students to attend. 

Michala Butler, a graduate journalism student who lives on the block, thinks the new name is a good idea, and hopes that there will be little pushback from fellow community members and students, given recent tensions between residents and police.

“I think it’s representing the community in the right way as well as the police force that’s out on these streets everyday,” Butler said. “I think that it’s going to receive positive feedback, and I think that it also brings a little bit of light to the situation showing how Temple has come together as a community to support each other during this time, especially given the stuff that’s gone on with our administration.” 

Nienke Oerlemans, a master in management student, also feels the new name for the block is a great way to honor Sgt. Fitzgerald’s legacy.

“I definitely think it is a good thing to keep the memory going,” Oerlemans said. “It was something that happened on our block here, it was absolutely awful and we were all affected by it, so I think it’s definitely good to keep the memories alive of him.”

A temporary memorial was created in the days following Sgt. Fitzgerald’s death, consisting of a framed photograph of the officer and flowers under a tent, but the temporary memorial has since been deconstructed. 

On Feb. 23, Wingard announced that the university had raised $450,000 to support Fitzgerald’s family. 

Temple also covered the cost of the funeral and offered tuition remission for his family, should they choose to attend Temple. 
A vigil was also held at the Bell Tower where friends, family, students and other community members celebrated the life of the fallen officer.

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