Police honor slain colleague on 50th anniversary
Bethlehem officer’s death a reminder of police work dangers
A line of Bethlehem police officers wearing badges marked with a black sash gathered Thursday to honor the 50th anniversary of the slaying of one of their own.
On Aug. 29, 1969, officer Phillip Fahy and his partner were chasing a hit-andrun driver. That driver, 31-year-old Bebley Wells Jr., was cornered and opened fire on the officers with a shotgun. Fahy died at the scene and Wells was wounded by Fahy’s partner.
The killing is a stark reminder of the dangers of police work, said Bethlehem police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who quoted a saying engraved on the National Law Enforcement Memorial honoring officers who died in the line of duty.
“It’s not how they died, but how they lived that is important to remember,” DiLuzio said.
Fahy, a 26-year-old father-to-be, had turned in his resignation two weeks before he was killed because he planned to attend college. His widow, Susan, eventually moved from the area.
Each year, officers, their families and residents gather at the foot of the Fehy Bridge, where a brick wall named in Fahy’s honor marks the names and details of other officers killed in the line of duty.
Fahy’s partner, Merle Getz, died in 2018 at age 85. He long carried the burden of Fahy’s slaying with him in physical form with a bag stuffed with newspaper articles and photos of his partner that he would share with anyone who asked.
“It doesn’t haunt me,” Getz said in a 2007 article about Fahy’s killing. “I just think about it all the time.”
Wells was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2004.
Fahy’s family at one time lived in the Bethlehem area, but DiLuzio said the department is unsure if they still live here.
Officer William Audelo, the department’s union president, noted the nearby bridge that bears Fahy’s name.
“As a community, it’s so important to keep his memory alive and never forget the sacrifice he made,” Audelo said. “As a department, we must always remember the dangers of this profession. Going home at the end of your shift is never a guarantee.”
Morning Call reporter Pamela Lehman can be reached at 610-820-6790 or [email protected]
Above: The Bethlehem Police Department marked the 50th anniversary of the killing of Bethlehem police Officer Phillip Fahy, who was shot during a hit-and-run crash and vehicle pursuit, with a ceremony and wreath Thursday. Officer Thomas DeFrank pays his respects to a memorial for fallen officers.
At left: Bethlehem police honored their colleague, Phillip Fahy, on the 50th anniversary of his slaying Thursday.