ShareThis Page
News

Three Pittsburgh officers killed in standoff in Stanton Heights

| Saturday, April 4, 2009

A heavily armed man who authorities say was lying in wait at his Stanton Heights home killed three Pittsburgh police officers and injured two others responding to a dispute this morning.

Police Chief Nate Harper this afternoon identified the dead officers as Stephen J. Mayhle, Eric G. Kelly and Paul J. Sciullo.

"It is truly a tragic and very sorrowful day," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "A senseless and tragic random act of violence took place on what began as a beautiful spring morning. ... We will remember the three officers and the sacrifices they made."

Harper said Richard Poplawski, 22, shot Sciullo and Mayhle in their heads with an assault rifle as they approached the house. Kelly, a 14-year veteran of the force, responded to the call on his way home and was killed as he tried to assist the other officers, Harper said.

Officer Timothy McManaway, a 15-year veteran, was shot in the hand. Officer Brian Jones broke his leg.

Poplawski, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was wounded. Harper said he will be charged with three counts of homicide.

"It is a solemn and very sad day in the city of Pittsburgh," Harper said. "As we've seen this type of violence out in California, we never would think we'd see this type of violence in Pittsburgh."

Bishop David Zubik said he met and prayed with the families of two of the fallen officers early this afternoon. He plans to meet the third family after he attends a peace rally at Heinz Field.

"They're really in a state of shock," Zubik said of the officers' families.

"Coupled with what happened yesterday in Binghamton, it is a matter of people seeing that peace is more than a word," he said. "It's how we must live our lives."

An emergency dispatcher shortly after 1 p.m. broadcast a message over police radios instructing that all city flags be lowered to half staff "in honor of our deceased brothers." The dispatcher ended the message with "lest we forget."

Harper said the gunman was armed with an assault rifle, a regular rifle and plenty of ammunition. Police were called to the scene by Poplawski's mother shortly before 7 a.m. Harper said the suspect began firing from a window.

Hundreds of bullets were fired by Poplawski and police, Harper and neighbors said.

Poplawski surrendered about 11 a.m.

Edward Perkovic, a friend of Poplawski's from North Catholic High School, said Poplawski called him at Children's Hospital this morning, where Perkovic worked.

"He said, 'Eddie, I'm going to die today. Tell your family that I love them, and I love you.' Then I heard a bunch of gunshots," Perkovic said.

Perkovic and others who know the suspect said Poplawski was dismissed from U.S. Marine Corps recruit training in the past.

Perkovic said Poplawski had been involved in domestic disputes in the past. Harper would not confirm that police had been at the Fairfield Street home before.

City and state police, joined by Allegheny County sheriff's deputies, cordoned off several blocks surrounding the house.

"I was outside and I just heard 'pop pop pop pop pop ...'" said Mike Pace, 26, who lives two blocks away on Woodbine Street. "Crazy."

Staff writers Rick Wills, Jeremy Boren and Jill King Greenwood contributed to this report.

Additional Information:

Google Map


View Larger Map

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me