Milwaukee police officer Peter Jerving was killed early Tuesday in a shootout during a robbery investigation on the city's south side. The suspect, 19-year-old Terrell Thompson, is also dead.
The shooting comes as many in the law enforcement community were marking the anniversary of the death of Officer Matthew Rittner Monday, who died on Feb. 6, 2019 less than a mile from where the shooting occurred Tuesday morning.
According to a statement from the Milwaukee Police Department, the shooting occurred after Milwaukee police officers responded at 1:16 a.m. to the 2700 block of S. 14th St. in Milwaukee in search for a suspect in a robbery that occurred late Monday. The suspect ran away from the officers, according to police. When officers caught up to the suspect, "a struggle ensued."
"During the struggle, the suspect used a handgun and fired shots, striking the other officer," police said in a statement. "That officer discharged his firearm during the exchange. The suspect was struck by gunfire."
Thompson died at the scene.
Police Chief said Jerving received award last year
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman spoke about Jerving's time on the force. He said Jerving, a four-year veteran of the department, was a life-long Milwaukee resident who had wanted to be a police officer since childhood.
"His courage in the line of duty should be commended," Norman said. "He received the MPD lifesaving award just last year for heroically providing life-saving care to a shooting victim during extremely dangerous conditions. He will be greatly missed by us all."
Norman asked others to remember the 38-year-old officer's "smile and positive attitude" as they grieve his death.
A department chaplain read a statement from Jerving's family: "Officer Peter Jerving loved and dedicated his life to serving the great people of our city. To his last breath, Peter fulfilled that goal. Milwaukee has lost one of its finest young officers."
Norman said his heart was heavy following the death. It was the first on-duty death he's experienced since becoming chief in 2021.
"One of our finest, who put on that uniform, put on that badge, went into work last night and paid the ultimate sacrifice for protecting our community," Norman said during a press conference Tuesday morning. "Milwaukee, we need your prayers. We need your support."
Following the press conference, Jerving's body was removed from the Milwaukee Medical Examiner's Office and escorted to a funeral home. Over 100 police officers and city officials joined Jerving's family at the procession, as many onlookers also stood to watch the proceedings in downtown Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Area Investigative Team is investigating the incident, with the Brookfield Police Department serving as the lead agency. State law requires an outside agency to investigate police shootings.
Memorial sees visitors throughout the day Tuesday
A makeshift memorial was made for Jerving at Milwaukee Police Department District Station 4, where he worked. Darlene Jose, an auxiliary police officer with the Milwaukee Police Department, said the shooting occurred just a few blocks from her house. She went to the memorial to pay her respects to the fallen officer.
"I was scared, worried that it was one of the officers that I knew close," Jose said. "It's heartbreaking."
Andrew Wagner, president of the Milwaukee Professional Police Association, said the department lost a public servant.
"Our officers are suffering. They're in mourning," Wagner said. "It is now our duty to look forward to preserving his memory, preserving his life and looking onward to making sure his memory will never be forgotten and his sacrifice to this city and his community will never be forgotten as well."
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson also spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning, reminding the community that public safety is a shared goal. That's been a common theme for city leaders and officials in recent weeks, after Milwaukee broke its homicide record for the third year in a row in 2022.
"Enough of this. Enough of it. There are no excuses for this," Johnson said. "This officer should not be dead right now, this should not happen."
The on-duty death is the first for the Milwaukee Police Department since Feb. 6, 2019, when Rittner died while executing a search warrant. Rittner was the third Milwaukee police officer to be killed on duty in an eight-month time period at that time.
The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial recorded no line-of-duty police deaths in 2022. In 2021, four officers died from COVID-19 contracted as a result of their service in Wisconsin. A report from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund found 64 officers around the nation were killed by gunfire in 2022.
Thompson was in court Monday for two hit-and-run related charges, according to online court records. One of those charges was dismissed in a plea agreement.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Dee sentenced Thompson to 120 days in the House of Correction for the other charge. That sentence was then stayed, and he was sentenced to a year of probation instead. He would have had to meet certain conditions, including absolute sobriety and passing random drug testing, as part of probation.
Politicians, officials react
In a tweet, Gov. Tony Evers said he and his wife were praying for "the officer's family, colleagues, the department, and the entire city of Milwaukee mourning yet another tragic loss due to gun violence."
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said his thoughts were with the officer's family and the department.
"I am heartbroken and outraged by the loss of the Milwaukee police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice while working to apprehend a robbery suspect," Kaul wrote in a tweet.
A statement from several members of the Milwaukee Common Council asked members of the community to join them in mourning the officer.
"As we have seen before, the coming days will be very difficult and filled with grief, as we stand together to honor our fallen officer who showed such devotion to the City of Milwaukee. We will also stand with the entire Milwaukee Police Department in unity to offer our full support during this time of mourning," the statement said.
Rep. Bob Donovan, R-Greenfield, who used to serve on the Milwaukee Common Council, also released a statement following the incident.
"I woke up this morning like so many others to the tragic news of yet another Milwaukee police officer gunned down while serving in the line of duty," Donovan wrote. "On behalf of both Kathy and I, we extend our genuine condolences to the family and friends of our fallen officer."