MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee police officer chased down a robbery suspect and was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire early Tuesday. The suspect also died from a gunshot wound, police said.
Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said the suspect ignored officers' commands and fled on foot after they arrived at the robbery scene about 1:15 a.m. on the city's south side. One officer then caught up with the suspect and a struggle ensued. Both men fired their weapons.
The wounded officer, 37-year-old Peter Jerving, died at a hospital, he said. Jerving had four years of experience with the Milwaukee Police Department, the chief said.
The suspect, 19-year-old Terrell Thompson, died at the scene. The chief said it was not immediately clear if Thompson died from the shot fired by Jerving or a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Thompson was sentenced Monday to a year of probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge filed against him in July 2021, court records show.
“Milwaukee, our hearts are heavy. Milwaukee Police Department hearts are heavy. My heart is heavy," Norman told a news conference. “The violence needs to stop!"
He said the city and its police department are in mourning.
“One of our finest, who put on that uniform, put on that badge, went into work last night has paid the ultimate sacrifice for protecting our community. Milwaukee, we need your prayers, we need your support.”
The department's chaplain, George Papachristou, read a statement from Jerving's family at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
“It is with much sadness that we, the family of Officer Peter Jerving, announce his untimely death which took place in the line of duty,” the chaplain read. “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."
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, angry and frustrated, said earlier in the day that the entire community, not just police, must play an active role in trying to combat gun violence and making the city safe.
“The men and women of the Milwaukee Police Department, it’s not just them — it’s up to all of us,” the mayor said. “Enough of this, enough of this. There’s no excuse for this. This officer should not be dead right now.”
As in other communities across America, gun violence has been a problem for years in the city of 569,000. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel database, 224 people were killed in the city last year, 197 people in 2021 and 190 in 2020, about 90% of them shot to death.
The city saw fewer than 120 homicides each year from 2017 to 2019. Guns were still the weapon of choice, though, at around 80% each year.
Milwaukee Common Council President Jose G. Perez said in a statement that the shooting happened just blocks from his home.
“In our city we have too many guns, too many who are willing to carry and use guns, and far too much violence affecting every neighborhood,” he said. “We can and we must do better.”