Tue, Apr 07, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Pittsburgh man kills three police after domestic argument


An emergency call that brought two police officers to a home where they were fatally shot and where a third was also killed later during a four-hour siege, was precipitated by a fight between the gunman and his mother over a dog urinating in the house.

The Saturday argument between Margaret and Richard Poplawski escalated to the point that she threatened to kick him out and she called police to do it, said a 12-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed late on Saturday.

When officers Paul Sciullo and Stephen Mayhle arrived, Margaret Poplawski opened the door and told them to come in and take her 23-year-old son, apparently unaware he was standing behind her with a rifle, the affidavit said.

Hearing gunshots, she spun around to see her son with the gun and ran to the basement.

“What the hell have you done?” she shouted.

The mother told police her son had been stockpiling guns and ammunition “because he believed that as a result of economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society,” the affidavit said.

Friends have said Poplawski was concerned about his weapons being seized during US President Barack Obama’s term and that he owned several handguns and an AK-47 assault rifle.

Autopsies show Sciullo, 37, died of wounds to the head and torso. Mayhle, 29, was shot in the head.

A witness awakened by two gunshots told investigators of seeing the gunman standing in the home’s front doorway and firing two to three shots into one officer who was already down. Sciullo was later found dead in the home’s living room and Mayhle near the front stoop, police said.

A third officer, Eric Kelly, 41, was killed as he arrived to assist the first two officers. Kelly was in uniform but on his way home when he responded and was gunned down in the street.

Kelly’s radio call for help summoned other officers, including a police commando team. The ensuing standoff included a gun battle in which police say Richard Poplawski tried to kill other officers.

Poplawski is charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide — one each for the eight officers who were shot at in an armored police vehicle, plus a ninth who was shot in the hand as he tried to help Kelly.

Poplawski also was charged with possessing an instrument of crime: the bulletproof vest he wore during the gun battle.

A district judge arraigned Poplawski at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. Poplawski was being treated there for gunshot wounds and is expected to survive.

Poplawski had feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon,” said Edward Perkovic, his best friend.

Perkovic, 22, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, “Eddie, I am going to die today ... Tell your family I love them and I love you.”

“I heard gunshots and he hung up,” Perkovic said.

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