At least 3 police officers killed in Pittsburgh shootings

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA neighborhoods.
Image: Tom Murphy VII.

At least five police officers were shot this morning in the Stanton Heights section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The alleged 23-year-old shooter, Richard "Pop" Poplawski, surrendered to police around 11 a.m. EST after fatally shooting three officers and wounding two others.

Initially, four police officers responded to 1016 Fairfield Street for a domestic dispute call around 7 a.m. The shooter, who was armed with a high-powered assault rifle, an AK47 and a bullet-proof vest, was hanging out of the window and opened fire on the officers.

When SWAT members arrived on the scene to assist officers, they were also shot at by the suspect. A neighbor says an estimated 100 rounds of ammunition were shot off before the suspect surrendered to police. The shooter, upon surrendering, was taken to the UPMC Presbyterian hospital with injuries.

Edward Perkovic, a friend of the alleged shooter, told local news affiliate WTAE-TV that Poplawski called him around 8:30 a.m. on the phone and said that "he [Poplawski] was going to die today."

"This was a complete surprise to me and my family and everyone's families that were friends with him. Nobody ever expected something like this from him," Perkovic said, adding that Poplawski was scared of "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon."

Another longtime friend, Joe DiMarco, told KDKA-TV that Poplawski had been laid off earlier this year from his job at a glass factory and that Poplawski was upset about losing his job.

A Response Team of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, practicing Tactics.
Image: Tim McAteer.

During the several-hour long standoff, police claim Poplawski was watching the special breaking news coverage on local TV stations. Therefore, police had to move the media away from the scene for a short time. In the end, Pennsylvania state police, Allegheny County police, Pittsburgh police, SWAT members and a state police helicopter responded to scene.

WPXI-TV reporter Rick Earle said his sources say one of the injured officers was shot in the hand, and the other broke his leg while jumping over a fence.

One of the officers who was fatally shot, a thirteen year veteran with the Pittsburgh Police, was off-duty at the time but responded to the scene to offer his help. The two other officers who were fatally shot allegedly joined the police force in 2007.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richards said medics at the scene were unable to reach the wounded officers for a while because of the continuous shooting.

WPXI-TV reports that Poplawski had previously been training to become a U.S. Marine, but was kicked out of boot camp. He was also reportedly expelled from North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh.

More details are to be released by Police Chief Nathan Harper at a 3 p.m. news conference at Pittsburgh Police Headquarters.

Two weeks ago four police officers were killed in a fatal shooting in Oakland, Calif., in what was the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001.

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