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Poplawski called unremorseful
Police say suspect maintained cold demeanor during interviews about killing 3 officers
Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Richard Poplawski thought Officer Stephen J. Mayhle was faking being dead as he lay in front of a Stanton Heights home on Saturday morning. So he shot the officer again, investigators said he told them.

He also shot Officer Paul J. Sciullo II a second time as he lay inside the house, police said Mr. Poplawski told them.

Investigators said Mr. Poplawski, 22, showed no remorse when describing the deaths of Officers Mayhle, Sciullo and Eric Kelly, who were all killed as they responded to a 911 call placed by Margaret Poplawski, the suspect's mother.

Investigators said Mr. Poplawski maintained a cold demeanor as he answered their questions, occasionally yawning.

He also said he thought he had killed as many as five police officers, including Officer Timothy McManaway, who was hit on the hand by a bullet or shrapnel while trying to rescue Officer Kelly.

"Yeah, I thought he was dead," police quoted Mr, Poplawski as saying.

Another officer, Brian Jones, broke a leg while scaling a fence behind the house.

Mr. Poplawski engaged in a lengthy gun battle with police, firing an AK-47 from his bedroom window and exchanging hundreds of rounds of gunfire with SWAT officers before surrendering.

Mr. Poplawski was hit multiple times in the leg during the four-hour standoff, and he called friends and told them he was going to die.

The gunman later told investigators he had planned for police to kill him. But he changed his mind and agreed to surrender, hoping to go to prison so he could write a book.

Mr. Poplawski has been charged with three counts of homicide and is being held at the Allegheny County Jail. A preliminary hearing has been postponed until April 17.

Lisa Middleman, Mr. Poplawski's attorney, last night said she was unable to comment because prosecutors hadn't given her all the details of her client's interviews with police.

According to a criminal complaint, Mrs. Poplawski called 911 shortly after 7 a.m., saying she wanted her son out of the house "because he was giving her a hard time." She said she had awakened and confronted him after discovering that a dog had urinated on the floor, and the two had argued.

She also acknowledged that her son had weapons, but Allegheny County's 911 center never passed that information to police.

Officers Mayhle and Sciullo arrived within 10 minutes. Mrs. Poplawski opened the door and told them to "come and take his ass," the complaint said. The officers made it about 10 feet into the home, and Mrs. Poplawski said she heard gunshots.

She then turned and saw her son about six feet away with a rifle in his hands, at which point she fled after screaming, "What the hell have you done?"

Officer McManaway arrived at 7:17, one minute after a radio call that officers were under fire. He saw Officer Kelly, who was off duty but had driven to the scene to back up the other officers, wounded in the street beside his sport-utility vehicle.

After being hit in the hand, Officer McManaway pulled Officer Kelly to cover behind the SUV, where they awaited rescue by a SWAT unit.

Paramedics took Officer Kelly to UPMC Presbyterian, where he died. An autopsy by the medical examiner later found he died of gunshot wounds to the trunk and lower extremities.

Officers Sciullo and Mayhle were pronounced dead at the scene. Autopsies determined that Officer Sciullo died of gunshot wounds to the head and trunk; Officer Mayhle died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1183.
First published on April 8, 2009 at 12:00 am
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