April 4, 2009 in Nation/World

Gunman opens fire, 3 Pittsburgh police officers killed

Associated Press
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

A Pittsburgh police officer is taken away on a stretcher from the scene of a standoff on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh police say a man wearing a bulletproof vest opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call, killing three of them.

Police chief Nate Harper says the motive for Saturday’s shooting isn’t clear. Friends say the gunman recently had been upset about losing his job and that he feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

The three dead officers are Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo III. Kelly had been on the force for 14 years and the other two only two years each. Another officer was shot in the hand and a fifth broke his leg on a fence.

The gunman, 23-year-old Richard Poplawski, was arrested after a four-hour standoff.

The shootings occurred just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot March 21 in Oakland, California, in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001.

Police did not immediately release the gunman’s identity, but his friends at the scene described him as a young man who thought the Obama administration would ban guns.

One friend, Edward Perkovic, said the gunman feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said the gunman feared that President Barack Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he “wasn’t violently against Obama.”

Perkovic, a 22-year-old who said he was the gunman’s best friend, 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.”

Perkovic said: “I heard gunshots and he hung up. … He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot.”

Vire, 23, said the gunman once had an Internet talk show but that it was not successful. Vire said his friend had an AK-47 rifle and several powerful handguns, including a .357 Magnum.

Another friend, Joe DiMarco, said the suspect had been laid off from his job at a glass factory earlier this year. DiMarco said he did not know the name of the company, but knew his friend had been upset about losing his job.

The officers were called to the home in the Stanton Heights neighborhood at about 7 a.m., Richard said.

Tom Moffitt, 51, a city firefighter who lives two blocks away, said he heard about the shooting on his scanner and came to the scene, where he heard “hundreds, just hundreds of shots. And not just once — several times.”

Rob Gift, 45, who lives a block away, said he heard rapid gunfire as he was letting his dog out.

He said the neighborhood of well-kept single-family houses and manicured lawns is home to many police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other city workers.

“It’s just a very quiet neighborhood,” Gift said.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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