April 6th, 2009
12:13 PM ET

Part of America Died

[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. "]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

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.

Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon • Gun Control • Gun Violence
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Sharon S

    Why was Richard Poplawski's Mother calling the police because her son was giving her a hard time? Why can't people take care of their own responsibilities? What a selfish act, then this happens!!!

    Well I hope Richard Poplawski gets exactly what he deserves because I know when he dies he will have to answer to GOD!

    I pray for all the families of these officiers, sad so very sad to lose the very people we need to protect us in this messed up country!

    And Oh before anyone goes crazy about the AK-47 check the records you can bet this low life scum did NOT get this gun legally!!!

    Now Government when do you plan on cracking down on these typse of guns being sold ILLEGALLY in the US!!????

    April 6, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  2. brain430

    our president just abolished the declaration of independence!!!!!!!by agreeing to the g20 agreement, effectifly abolishes our declaration of independence!!!!!! all hale the queen!!!!!! welcome to the united states of britian!!!!!!

    April 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  3. Lisa W

    Felicia and East Oakland Girl, Our Oakland Officers got their memorial... Did you not see the stadium packed with nearly 10,000 officers from all over North America. We will be there for Pittsburgh too.

    For some, humanity has gotten lost and for some, never learned. We have to have hope that this is a small number of people and that the majority of the human race are good, caring, loving people.

    As the wife of an Oakland police officer, I send my 15-year veteran off to work with hope and a prayer. I know that most of the time, he's there to help. ...at least that's what keeps me going. God bless the families of those 3 courageous men. I know their brothers and sisters in law enforcement hold them in their hearts.

    April 6, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Gwendolyn Ford

    Felicia Haggarty must not read your site too often or she would know that there WAS a trubite to the LA officers. I know, I wrote on it.

    She should also know that this is about the PA officers and should at lest have the hear to send a kind word to these officers family, friends and coworkers.

    My prayers are with all of them.


    April 6, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
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