Image: Mother, left, and grandmother of Richard Poplawski
John Heller  /  AP
The mother, left, and grandmother of Richard Poplawski leave their home in the Stanton Heights area of Pittsburgh where Richard Poplawski allegedly shot and killed three police officers early Saturday morning, April 4.
updated 4/5/2009 2:15:21 PM ET 2009-04-05T18:15:21

An emergency call that brought two city police officers to a home where they were ambushed, and where a third was later killed during a four-hour siege, was precipitated by a fight between the alleged gunman and his mother over a dog urinating in the house.

The Saturday morning argument between Margaret and Richard Poplawski escalated to the point that she threatened to kick him out and called police to do it, according to a 12-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed late Saturday that contains her account.

When officers Paul Sciullo III and Stephen Mayhle arrived, Margaret Poplawski opened the door and told them to come in and take her 23-year-old son, apparently unaware that he had grabbed a long rifle and was standing behind her, according to the court papers. She told investigators she heard gunshots, spun around and ran to the basement, shouting, "What the hell have you done?"

Autopsies show Sciullo, 37, died of wounds to the head and torso, while Mayhle, 29, was shot in the head.

Call for help summoned more officers
A third officer, Eric Kelly, 41, was killed as he arrived to assist the first two officers. Kelly was in uniform but on his way home when he responded and was gunned down in the street.

Kelly's radio call for help summoned other officers, including a police commando team. The ensuing standoff included a gun battle in which police say Richard Poplawski tried to kill at least nine other officers.

Saturday's slayings occurred just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot in Oakland, California, in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Poplawski is charged with three counts of criminal homicide and nine counts of attempted homicide — one each for the officers he allegedly fired at, including one who was shot in the hand as he tried to help Kelly.

Poplawski was also charged with possessing an instrument of crime: the bulletproof vest he wore during the gun battle with police. The criminal complaint does not say how Poplawski obtained the vest.

Police Chief Nate Harper Jr. has said the vest kept Poplawski from being more seriously wounded, but police have not specifically said how many shots were stopped by the vest.

Poplawski arraigned in hospital
A district judge arraigned Poplawski at UPMC Presbyerian Hospital, an arraignment court worker told The Associated Press on Sunday. Poplawski was being treated there for gunshot wounds to his legs and remains under guard. Police and hospital officials have not released his condition, though he is expected to survive.

It was not immediately clear if Poplawski has an attorney. A preliminary hearing, at which Poplawski could challenge the charges, was not immediately scheduled.

Poplawski is also charged with firing weapons into two occupied neighboring homes and with recklessly endangering four civilians with gunfire. None were wounded.

Police did not immediately say why Poplawski fired toward the neighboring homes, but some officers were seen going into nearby homes and perching on rooftops in an attempt to control the scene.

Poplawski had feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon," said Edward Perkovic, his best friend.

Perkovic, 22, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, "Eddie, I am going to die today. ... Tell your family I love them and I love you." Video: Slain officer was on his way home

Perkovic said: "I heard gunshots and he hung up. ... He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot."

Alleged shooter tried to join Marines
Poplawski had once tried to join the Marines, but was kicked out of boot camp after throwing a food tray at a drill sergeant, Perkovic said.

Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, 23, said Poplawski feared that President Barack Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he "wasn't violently against Obama."

Obama has said he respects Americans' constitutional right to bear arms, but that he favors "common sense" gun laws. Gun rights advocates interpret that as meaning he would approve some curbs on assault and concealed weapons.

Poplawski had been laid off from his job at a glass factory earlier this year, said another friend, Joe DiMarco. DiMarco said he didn't know the name of the company, but knew his friend had been upset about it.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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