Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo responded to call from Margaret Poplawski that her son, Richard, was being belligerent in her home on April 4, 2009. When they arrived at the home, they were ambushed by Poplawski, who was armed with multiple weapons. Both officers were killed.
Officer Eric Kelly was off duty at the time but lived near by and responded to the scene when he heard the police call. He was killed as he sought to aid his already shot colleagues.
Poplawski was arrested after a four hour standoff in which he and three additional officers were wounded.
There are conflicting accounts as to whether Poplawski’s mother, Margaret Poplawski, knew the officers were being drawn into an ambush. However, it is known that the 911 dispatcher failed to tell police that there were guns in the home after being told that there were by Margaret Poplawski.
Richard Poplawski, an avowed white supremacist, anti-Semite, and gun rights extremist, was convicted of three counts of murder and twenty-five related charges on June 25, 2011. He was sentenced to death three days later. His was the last death sentence imposed in Allegheny County.
The killings of these three officers represent the largest loss of life in a single incident in the history of the Pittsburgh Police Department.