[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/04/04/pittsburgh.officers.shot/art.pittsburgh.03.gi.jpg caption="The killings were the first police officer fatalities in Pittsburgh since 1995. "]
Richard Poplawski allegedly ambushed three Pittsburgh police officers on Saturday. Authorities say the heroes were all cut down by a coward armed with an AK-47. A friend of Poplawski said the suspect called him and said he was going to die that day. Yet he lived. They did not. They were just doing their jobs, this time responding to a routine call. How were they to know it was a death trap?
It is one of the darkest moments in the history of Pittsburgh. Within a few hours, three officers were slain in the line of duty. The first cop killings in more than a decade. The grief has overwhelmed the city. "We ask all of Pittsburgh to mourn the passing of these three heroes and to embrace and support their families and loves ones," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
It started with what seemed like a routine call - a domestic argument sparked by a dog urinating in the house. A police complaint seeking an arrest warrant for Poplawski, 22, says his mother called 9-1-1 around 7 a.m. Saturday to report her son was "giving her a hard time."
The officers were shot during a four-hour standoff with police. Police say Poplawski, who was shot in the leg and hospitalized, will be charged with three counts of homicide, aggravated assault and other charges.
The victims were husbands and fathers, sons and brothers. Eric Kelly leaves behind a wife and three daughters. Stephen Mayhle is survived by a wife and two girls. Paul Sciullo, III, was engaged to be married.
Framed pictures of the fallen officers stand in front of the Allegheny County Law Enforcement Memorial. The shrine is located near Heinz Field, and it honors the brave public servants who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the community. The memorial is inscribed with the following poem:
A Part of America Died
Somebody killed a policeman today, and a part of America died. A piece of our country he swore to protect, will be buried with him at his side. The beat that he walked was a battlefield, too, just as if he had gone off to war. Though the flag of our nation won't fly at half-mast, to his name they will add a gold star.
The suspect that shot him?will stand up in court with counsel demanding his rights. While a young, widowed mother must work for her kids, and spend many long, lonely nights.
Yes, somebody killed a policeman today ... maybe in your town or mine. While we slept in comfort behind our locked doors a cop put his life on the line.
Now his ghost walks the beat on a dark city street, and he stands at each new rookie's side. He answered the call, of himself he gave all, and a part of America died.
Officers Kelly, Mayhle, and Sciullo, III, answered the call in Pittsburgh on Saturday. When they died, a part of America died too. We honor their bravery and their courage. We mourn their loss. And we are also grateful to the thousands of men and women in law enforcement throughout the country, who every single day, are risking their lives to protect our lives.
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