Urinating Dog Sparked Cop-Killing 'Battle'

Fight that brought police to Pittsburgh home began over dog, complaint says.

April 5, 2009 — -- The gun battle that left three Pittsburgh police officers dead and two wounded came after cops responded to a 911 domestic disturbance call sparked by a fight between a mother and son over a urinating dog, according to a police report.

The attack shocked residents of the Stanton Heights area of northeast Pittsburgh who awoke Saturday to the sound of gunshots -- around 100 rounds of gunfire in all.

"I couldn't walk out of my front door, it was a battle right in front of my house," said one neighbor, Randy Branch.

The chaos started shortly after 7 a.m. on Saturday, when police responded to what they assumed was a routine domestic disturbance call.

They showed up at the Stanton Heights home where Richard Poplawski, 23, lived with his mother. She had called 911 after an argument with her son over his dog urinating in the house grew heated and she threatened to evict him, according to the criminal complaint against Poplawski, which was obtained by ABC affiliate WTAE in Pittsburgh.

Immediate Shooting Upon Entry

Two officers, Paul Sciullo and Stephen Mayhle, were shot as soon as they entered the doorway, Pittsburgh police chief Nathan Harper said.

A third officer, Eric Kelly, responded to the scene and was also shot. All three died of gunshot wounds.

Besides the three fatalities, two other police officers were wounded but are in stable condition.

Poplawski was shot several times in the leg and is in a local hospital receiving medical treatment.

The gunman apparently called several of his friends as the standoff was about to begin.

"He told us he loved us, that he'd been shot and he thought he was going to die," said one of those friends, Joe Dimarco.

DiMarco said his friend was "preparing for the end of the world," and that Poplawski had stockpiled bottled water and bags of rice. When asked why his friend had so many weapons, he replied, "for protection."

Other friends said they had seen him just two days ago and he seemed relaxed and was looking forward to going to a birthday party with friends this weekend.

"It seems like a bad dream," said Ryan Newfeld, another friend of the shooter's. "I've know him all my life, he's not that type of person."

Poplawski was armed with an AK-47, a rifle and a pistol, police said.

When a SWAT team arrived, Poplawski took up position at a bedroom window and started shooting. After four hours, police negotiators finally got Poplawski to surrender.

Shooter Wore Bulletproof Vest

Questions have arisen about whether or not the attack had been pre-meditated. Police had visited the home at least twice before for similar domestic dispute calls and the police chief said that Poplawski had "been a problem" in the past. Poplawski was also wearing a bulletproof vest.

But there are no indications yet that the attack was planned in advance and police still do not have a motive.

The shooting comes just a week after the deadly shooting of four police in Oakland. Pittsburgh's police chief made reference to the Oakland shootings in a press conference Saturday.

"This is a sad and somber day," he said. "We've seen this type of violence in California. We never would have thought this could happen in Pittsburgh."