Ex-firefighter dies; faced trial in road-rage slaying

Ger­ard M. Shaf­fer Sr., the former Phil­adelphia fire­fight­er fa­cing murder charges in con­nec­tion with an April 2010 road-rage in­cid­ent in the Far North­east, died sud­denly last week.

Shaf­fer, 48, died at home, ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

A tri­al date had been set for May 14, and a hear­ing on a mo­tion was sched­uled for last Wed­nes­day, Dec. 7, two days after Shaf­fer’s death.

The in­cid­ent took place at about 7:30 p.m. on April 8, 2010, at Knights and Fairdale roads in Mill­brook.

Shaf­fer was driv­ing, and his adult son, Ger­ard Jr., was in the pas­sen­ger seat. They were re­turn­ing to their home on the 4100 block of Farm­dale Road, turn­ing from Knights Road onto Fairdale Road.

At the same time, 54-year-old Mark Wal­lace, of the 3900 block of Pa­tri­cian Drive, was walk­ing along Knights Road, cross­ing the street at Fairdale Road.

At a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing in May 2010, an eye­wit­ness said she was walk­ing to Frank­lin Mills mall when she heard a car beep­ing at a man cross­ing the street.

“I have the right of way,” the ped­es­tri­an said.

The wit­ness said she saw Shaf­fer Sr. park his car and walk to­ward Wal­lace, who had his hands up. As Wal­lace walked away, she saw Shaf­fer push him, and the ped­es­tri­an re­spon­ded with a punch to the shoulder. The two star­ted fight­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to testi­mony from the wit­ness, Shaf­fer Jr. pushed his fath­er out of the way, put Wal­lace in a bear hug and threw him to the ground.

An­oth­er wit­ness test­i­fied that Shaf­fer Jr. hit Wal­lace in the face and that his fath­er dragged Wal­lace by the col­lar of his shirt and dropped him “like a sack of pota­toes.”

By that time, a crowd had gathered at the scene.

“You didn’t see any­thing,” two wit­nesses test­i­fied Shaf­fer Sr. told the crowd.

Wit­nesses said the Shaf­fers left the scene, and one bystand­er copied down their li­cense plate num­ber. They were ar­res­ted for the beat­ing.

Wal­lace died 12 days later, and the charges were up­graded to murder. An as­sist­ant city med­ic­al ex­am­iner test­i­fied that Wal­lace died of a brain in­jury. The brain was com­pletely swollen, cut­ting off blood flow and caus­ing a stroke. The vic­tim had a blood-al­co­hol con­tent of 0.264.

The pro­sec­u­tion asked that the duo be held on a gen­er­al murder charge, but Mu­ni­cip­al Court Judge James DeLe­on held them on charges of third-de­gree murder and crim­in­al con­spir­acy.

Shaf­fer Sr. also faced charges of hinder­ing ap­pre­hen­sion and un­sworn falsi­fic­a­tion be­cause he gave a state­ment to po­lice claim­ing that he merely drove by the scene after pick­ing up his paycheck at Lad­der 34, at Bustleton Av­en­ue and Bowl­er Street. He claimed that Wal­lace was ar­guing with mo­tor­ists and was roughed up by a young white man in a red shirt who left the scene through a Rite Aid park­ing lot.

After the al­leged as­sault, Shaf­fer re­tired from the fire de­part­ment.

Shaf­fer Jr., 22, re­mains un­der house ar­rest and will go on tri­al in the spring.

The Times had pro­filed the eld­er Shaf­fer three times as part of char­it­able en­deavors. At the time, he worked at En­gine 18, at 8205 Roosevelt Blvd.

In 2002, he rode a bi­cycle from the World Trade Cen­ter site to the Pentagon in re­mem­brance of the ter­ror­ist at­tacks a year earli­er.

The fol­low­ing year, he and his then-14-year-old son, an eighth-grader at the former Ben­jamin Rush Middle School, rode from New York to the Pentagon.

In 2005, Shaf­fer Sr. rode from Cali­for­nia to Flor­ida to raise money for vic­tims of a series of hur­ricanes.

Shaf­fer is sur­vived by his wife, Mary Beth. He was the fath­er of Eliza­beth Mc­Donough, Ger­ard Jr., Pa­tri­cia and the late Ernie. He is also sur­vived by a grand­son, Daniel, two sis­ters and two broth­ers.

A view­ing and ser­vice were held on Sat­urday at Louis A. Di­Gi­ac­omo Fu­ner­al Home on Southamp­ton Road in Somer­ton. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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