3 Pittsburgh Police Officers Shot And Killed, Others Wounded In Battle With Heavily Armed Man Today: A City In Mourning

Yesterday brought news that a man walked into an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y, opened fire and killed 13 people before finally killing himself. The shooter reportedly was wearing body armor, which indicates paranoia, premeditation and a desire to die violently.

Today brought news that three Pittsburgh police officers were killed when a man opened fire on them as they responded to a domestic call. Two other officers were wounded. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the wounded officers remained where they fell. Other officers couldn’t reach them immediately because of all the bullets flying over their heads.

Like the Binghamton shooter, the Pittsburgh shooter reportedly was wearing body armor.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Binghamton and Pittsburgh victims of these rampages and attacks on innocents. Seventeen people are dead in two days. At least six people are injured, some battling for their lives. When the final story is written, it will show that both shooters signaled that horrible things were in the offing and that the signs were not seen for what they were: cries for help or attention.

It always is easiest to interpret clues after the fact, which is why it’s important always to take threats or suggestions of violence seriously as they are occurring. We speak from experience.

Over the years we have lost two police friends in the line of duty — both in traffic accidents that occurred while they were responding to calls. A third friend was shot while encountering a robbery suspect on property belonging to a church.  He survived. A fourth friend nearly was killed in the same traffic accident that claimed the life of one of our friends mentioned above. A fifth friend survived a close-quarters attack inside a home only because the suspect’s gun jammed.

Remembering

A day such as today brings back memories.

It became our duty to deliver news of the death of one of our police friends to his brother, who was working as a community volunteer at a “haunted house” for children during Halloween week. He collapsed into our arms.

Many of our readers know that we served as a police officer before embarking on our journalism career. Our experience in both fields covers nearly 30 years now, but one never is truly prepared for the events of a day such as today.

Three Pittsburgh police officers are dead. They died to prevent other people from dying as the result of a violent outburst by a man wearing a bulletproof vest and shooting at any person who moved. Officers who didn’t get shot ended up saving the life of the man who’d just shot their colleagues.

Killed today were officers Stephen Mayhle, Eric Kelly and Paul Sciullo III. Officer Kelly was off-duty, having just completed his shift. He was shot and killed when he went to the aid of his ambushed colleagues on his way home from work.

Injured today were officers Timothy McManaway (bullet wound) and Brian Jones (broken leg).

The shooter was identified as Richard “Pop” Poplawski, 22.

Five children were among the survivors left behind by the slain officers. Two of the three officers left behind their wives. The third left behind his fiancée.

Violence. Senseless, murderous violence.

As a reporter, we covered the murder of a family member of a sitting judge. The victim was shot and killed in a home invasion while answering a knock at the door during the 11 p.m. newscast. His wife was shot and wounded. We also covered the murders of two 11-year-old girls, among other victims of violent crime, including victims of rampages and workplace and school violence.

One of the 11-year-old girls was killed with a handgun by her older brother, at point-blank range, because he feared she was going to expose his plot to murder his mother’s boyfriend. The other 11-year-old girl was murdered after she was kidnapped. Police solved the murder 12 years later. One of the officers who worked tirelessly to solve the crime was the brother-in-law of one of the officers who died in a traffic accident on his way to a call.

As a police officer, we saw violence, murder and mayhem, including the unprovoked stabbing of a man in a nightclub by a drunken, female assailant who also happened to be pregnant. She stabbed the man simply because he was there.

On any number of occasions we removed guns and knives from the possession of people who engaged us in hand-to-hand combat, and once tackled a man racing for a gun hidden in his couch. On one occasion we disarmed a drunken woman of a weaponized glass shard. We were inside her home because of a report of a suspicious light. The light source proved to be a gas line she had opened by unscrewing the cap and igniting the escaping gas with a butane lighter. The flame was shooting out across the floor of her living room. She wanted to die and take people with her. She later died alone from too many years of drugs and booze.

We have been in the trenches — and it never gets any easier to report the type of news you are reading right now.

This post is to honor the slain Pittsburgh officers, their fellow officers and their families.

And it is to honor our former law-enforcement colleagues referenced above: Roark, 35, (fallen) and Frank, 27, (fallen) — and John, Tony and Jerry who survived. We’re thinking about each of you today.

And we’re thinking about Brian, 36, (fallen), whom we knew only in our journalism life. Brian was killed while investigating a traffic accident, when he came into contact with a power line that fell from a utility pole that had been struck by a car. His death occurred on Valentine’s Day 2003.

Read the Post-Gazette’s coverage of the ambush on police officers in Pittsburgh today.

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9 Responses to “3 Pittsburgh Police Officers Shot And Killed, Others Wounded In Battle With Heavily Armed Man Today: A City In Mourning”

  1. Patrick:

    My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that now bear the brunt of this senseless violence; as well as the police agencies involved. Whether it is a police officer or a fireman, they become part of another family that becomes just as close as their real families. This sense of loss is just as great to their extended family as it is to their real families. It is truly a sad day for all of us.

    Thanks for sharing, and giving us an inside look that only you could provide to all of us. We feel the pain, anguish, and sorrow. Blessings to all those who are hurting.

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  2. Patrick,

    Thanks for sharing. My heart goes out to the families of the victims and especially the officers. One of the transforming emotional experiences of my life occured when my uncle, a police officer, was murdered in the line of duty. One comes to recognize that terrible things can happen to great and brave people……

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  3. Entertained: One of the transforming emotional experiences of my life occured when my uncle, a police officer, was murdered in the line of duty. One comes to recognize that terrible things can happen to great and brave people……

    Our respects to your uncle and family, Entertained. People never forget where they were and what they were doing when they got the news — almost like 9/11 or the assassination of President Kennedy.

    Patrick

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  4. Hi Lynn,

    Lynndel Edgington: My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to all the families that now bear the brunt of this senseless violence; as well as the police agencies involved. Whether it is a police officer or a fireman, they become part of another family that becomes just as close as their real families. This sense of loss is just as great to their extended family as it is to their real families. It is truly a sad day for all of us.

    Pittsburgh will reach out to the families, and the community will rally behind police officers and firefighters. These things, as you point out, are attacks on society as a whole.

    An FBI agent was shot and killed near Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, while trying to serve a warrant. The shooter, a woman, referred to the slain agent as “the [expletive deleted] cop” while in detention after she shot him.

    A state trooper was shot and killed with his own service revolver on Dec. 12, 2005, after making a traffic stop at 2 a.m. and being attacked, just outside of Pittsburgh.

    Patrick

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  5. Patrick,

    I would never believe that 100% of our public servants are fine and noble people, but the vast majority are. I cannot understand the anger, violence, and outrage against people whose job it is to prevent criminals from doing theirs. Andy Bowdoin is an evil man (not a Hitler, but closer to Hitler than to Ghandi by far) and yet many at Surf’s Up continue vilify Cowden, Collyer, Obama, you name it; everyone except the group of people who should be vilified, and yet they believe that Andy is a candidate for sainthood…..they worship a different god (lower case intentional) than most people do.

    admin: Hi Lynn,…….An FBI agent was shot and killed near Pittsburgh on Nov. 19, while trying to serve a warrant. The shooter, a woman, referred to the slain agent as “the [expletive deleted] cop” while in detention after she shot him.A state trooper was shot and killed with his own service revolver on Dec. 12, 2005, after making a traffic stop at 2 a.m. and being attacked, just outside of Pittsburgh.Patrick

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  6. Hi Entertained,

    Very few people — including public servants themselves — would believe that 100 percent of public servants are fine and noble people. The condition of perfection simply doesn’t exist — not in public service, not in any institution.

    Regardless, I’ll always believe that the human spirit tilts toward the greater angels of nature.

    Various public-corruption units exist in government — the checks to maintain the public trust. These are checks against the lesser angels.

    Some of the commentary at Surf’s Up is the commentary of ignorance. Many people don’t understand the issues, embrace feelings instead of facts and take no time at all to evaluate the issues. It’s not unusual for people to “go with the flow.”

    What is unusual about Surf’s Up, though, are things that can’t be explained as simple ignorance. The Mods and some of the members clearly are running interference for Bowdoin, despite all that has happened since August.

    In doing so, they are embracing the lesser angels, perhaps because it’s better for profits.

    With respect to the Pittsburgh police shootings, let me suggest you also read this. It’s an early story about the shooter’s motivations:

    http://post-gazette.com/pg/09095/960750-53.stm

    Patrick

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  7. First of all, my thoughts are with the families of those men who died because they were doing their jobs – protecting the community. It is, at once a tragedy and scandal.

    What is even more chilling is that they died at the hands of someone of dubious sanity and whose particular deviance took the on the cloak of the extremist right conspiracy theorists.

    Whilst there is no doubt that the world of Government and Big Business is not exactly “as seen of TV”, the distorted view of the world presented by these groups and their pernicious influence on the less than stable present the downside of Freedom of Speech.

    Although there isn’t any real comparison between this dreadful act and the shenanigans of the ASD propaganda bunch at Surfs Up – the “neo con” tendencies of some of its members do ring a little bell.

    And, in spite of the gravity of the situation, this comment on the link you just posted, Patrick, did make me smile “We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty” Sound familiar?

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  8. Hi alasycia,

    alasycia: “We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty” Sound familiar?

    Indeed. It does sound familiar.

    Take care.

    Patrick

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  9. Hi, Patrick;

    It’s difficult to know what to say to you, for I’ve never had anything close to experiences such as you describe you’ve had. However, for what it’s worth, know that there are people out here who care about those police officers – and their families’ well-being. And care about the pain of those who knew them and those like you who relate to them.

    Regarding the perpetrator: In reading the Post-Gazette article about him I was reminded that Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bombing) had similar relationships with the militia-types. It’s frightening to realize that these crazies are all around us.

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