MILWAUKEE – A Milwaukee police officer pursued a robbery suspect and was fatally shot in an exchange of fire early Tuesday. The suspect also died from a gunshot wound, police said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said the suspect ignored officers’ orders and fled on foot after they arrived at the scene of the robbery around 1:15 a.m. on the city’s South Side. An officer then caught up with the suspect and a fight ensued. Both men fired their weapons.

The injured officer, Peter Jerving, 37, died at a hospital, he said. Jerving had four years of experience with the Milwaukee Police Department, the chief said.

Peter Jerving. Milwaukee Police Department

The suspect, Terrell Thompson, 19, died at the scene. The chief said it was not immediately clear if Thompson died from Jerving’s shot or from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Thompson was sentenced Monday to one 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. The hearts of the Milwaukee Police Department are heavy. My heart is heavy,» Norman said at a news conference. “The violence has to stop!”

He said the city and its police department are in mourning.

“One of our best, who put on that uniform, put on that badge, went to work last night has paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our community. Milwaukee, we need his prayers, we need his support.»

The department’s chaplain, George Papachristou, read a statement from Jerving’s family at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“It is with great sadness that we, the family of Officer Peter Jerving, announce his untimely death which occurred in the line of duty,” the chaplain read. “Officer Peter Jerving loved and dedicated his life to serving the great people of our city. Until his last breath from him, Peter fulfilled that goal. Milwaukee has lost one of its best young officers.»

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, angry and frustrated, said earlier in the day that the entire community, not just the police, must play an active role in trying to combat gun violence and make 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 is no excuse for this. This officer should not be dead right now.»

As in other US communities, 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 between 2017 and 2019. However, guns were still the weapon of choice, at around 80% each year.

Milwaukee Common Council President José G. Pérez said in a statement that the shooting occurred a few blocks from his home.

“In our city we have too many guns, too many people who are willing to carry and use guns, and too much violence that affects every neighborhood,” he said. «We can and must do better.»