Fight over urinating dog got police to Pa. ambush killing 3 officers
PITTSBURGH – A 911 call that brought two city police officers to a home where they were ambushed, and where a third was later killed 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 morning argument between Margaret and Richard Poplawski escalated to the point that she threatened to kick him out and called police to do it, according to a 12-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed late Saturday that contains her account.
When officers Paul Sciullo III and Stephen Mayhle arrived, Margaret Poplawski opened the door and told them to come in and take her 23-year-old son, apparently unaware that he had grabbed a long rifle and was standing behind her, according to the court papers. She told investigators she heard gunshots, spun around and ran to the basement, shouting, "What the hell have you done?"
Autopsies show Sciullo, 37, died of wounds to the head and torso, while Mayhle, 29, was shot in the head.
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 SWAT team. The ensuing standoff included a gun battle in which police say Richard Poplawski tried to kill at least nine other officers.
Poplawski is charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide — one each for the officers he allegedly fired at, including one who was shot in the hand as he tried to help Kelly.
Poplawski was also charged with possessing an instrument of crime: the bulletproof vest he wore during the gun battle with police. The criminal complaint doesn't say how Poplawski obtained the vest.
Police Chief Nate Harper Jr. has said the vest kept Poplawski from being more seriously wounded, but police have not specifically said how many shots were stopped by the vest.
A district judge arraigned Poplawski at UPMC Presbyerian Hospital, an arraignment court worker told The Associated Press on Sunday. Poplawski was being treated there for gunshot wounds to his legs and remains under guard. Police and hospital officials have not released his condition, though he is expected to survive.
It was not immediately clear if Poplawski has an attorney. A preliminary hearing, at which Poplawski could challenge the charges, wasn't immediately scheduled.
Poplawski is also charged with firing weapons into two occupied neighboring homes and with recklessly endangering four civilians with gunfire. None were wounded.
Police did not immediately say why Poplawski fired toward the neighboring homes, but some officers were seen going into nearby homes and perching on rooftops in an attempt to control the scene.