"A solemn and very sad day in Pittsburgh"......those are the words of Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper in describing the worst day ever for the Pittsburgh Police Bureau. 3 officers were shot and killed during a standoff in the Stanton Heights section of the city this morning: Paul Sciullo III, a 2 year veteran of the force; Stephen Mayhle, also a 2 year police veteran; and, Eric Kelly, a 12 year veteran.
Chief Harper said Officers Sciullo and Mayhle responded to a domestic dispute called in by the suspect's mother. Officer Eric Kelly, who lives nearby, had just finished an 11 to 7 shift and came to back up his colleagues. Chief Harper says the gunman, 22 year old Richard Poplawski ambushed the officers, opening fire with an AK-47 as they came to the door of the house at 1016 Fairfield Street.
Harper says Poplawski then apparently went upstairs in the house and opened fire on a SWAT vehicle when it arrived about a half an hour later. Harper says Poplawski was wearing a bullet proof vest and sustained multiple leg wounds.
Two other police officers were injured: Timothy McManaway sustained a hand wound as he tried to drag Officer Kelly to safety. Officer Brian Jones suffered a broken leg when a fence he was trying to climb behind the house, collapsed.
Poplawski is in fair condition at UPMC Presbyterian. After high school, Poplawski joined the Marines but was dishonorably discharged during training. In 2005, a former girlfriend filed for a Protection From Abuse order against him. Chief Harper says he faces 3 counts of homicide, aggravated assault and other charges. Harper says that police had to respond to that house 2 or 3 times in the past because of complaints.
Never before has the Pittsburgh Police Bureau lost 3 officers in one incident. The last city officer to die in the line of duty was in 1995 when Sergeant James Taylor tried to stop a gang member from spraying graffiti. The only other time when more than 1 Pittsburgh officer was killed at the same time was in 1991 when 2 officers died in a crash during a police chase.
The city's flags have been lowered to half staff and all officers are wearing black bands over their badges. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says he has received condolences from around the country, from Governor Ed Rendell and from the White House. Ravenstahl asked Pittsburghers "to embrace the families of the fallen officers" and he thanked all officers who responded to the scene today.