Sunday, April 05, 2009
This is truly a sad, sad story. A good-looking 22-year-old kid kisses his life good-bye and takes the lives of three good men with him. He couldn't make it in school. He couldn't make it in the military. He failed in a relationship. He couldn't even make it in his own mother's house. On top of that, he has a stockpile of weapons and ammo, sells them online, believes the paranoid rantings of right-wing lunatics and tells his friends - yet no one saw him as a loose cannon. This is truly a tragedy.
Who Is Richard Poplawski?
Friends, Family Talk About Pittsburgh Suspect In Police Officers' Triple-Killing
POSTED: 6:17 pm EDT April 4, 2009
UPDATED: 3:13 pm EDT April 5, 2009
PITTSBURGH -- The man accused of fatally shooting three Pittsburgh police officers and injuring two others was alternately described by friends as "an easygoing, fun-loving guy" and a known gun enthusiast who was prepared to die after he woke up on a bright spring Saturday morning.
Between volleys of gunfire at his Stanton Heights home, Richard "Pop" Poplawski, 22, was apparently calling friends and family.
"He just told my nephew, Billy, that he was shot twice -- one in the arm, once in the leg," aunt Marianne Klimczyk told WTAE Channel 4's Bob Mayo. "He just told him to tell everybody that 'I love them' because he didn't think that he was going to get out of there alive."
Childhood friend Edward Perkovic said he spoke to Poplawski via telephone at about 8:30 a.m.
"What he said to me today was, 'Eddie, I'm going to die today. Tell your family I love them and I love you.' And I heard gunshots and he hung up the phone," Perkovic said. "This was a complete surprise to me and my family and everyone's families that were friends with him. Nobody ever expected something like this from him."
Perkovic said Poplawski feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon."
"He wasn't involved in any gangs, any militias. He believed in his right to bear arms. He believed that hard economic times were going to put forward gun bans," Perkovic said.
Suspect Owned Several Guns, Supply Of Ammunition
Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said Poplawski was armed with a high-powered assault rifle and a pistol, and he had a significant amount of ammunition as he allegedly fired out of his bedroom window on Fairfield Street.
According to the police criminal complaint obtained by WTAE Channel 4 Action News on Sunday, Poplawski's mother said her son has been "stockpiling guns and ammunition, buying and selling the weapons online because he believed that as a result of economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society."
Poplawski's mother said her son enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corps a few years ago but was discharged for assaulting a drill sergeant in basic training. Since his discharge, Poplawski's mother said her son had been stockpiling weapons, according to the criminal complaint.
"He wasn't fully a Marine. He got a dishonorable discharge out of boot camp," Perkovic said. "He wanted to get out of the Marine Corps."
Poplawski's mother also said her son has been "stockpiling guns and ammunition, buying and selling the weapons online because he believed that as a result of economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society."
According to the criminal complaint, Poplawski's mother said her son "only liked police when they were not curtailing his constitutional rights, which he was determined to protect."
"He has a few weapons. I know he has a machine gun, I know he has a couple rifles and I know he has a couple handguns…They're recreational, and for deer hunting and for everything. I mean, he's not a bad kid," Klimczyk said.
A posting on what was believed to be Poplawski's MySpace Web page said, "I spread my secrets out. Everybody knows something, but nobody knows everything. Some could call me crazy. My answer would be that at least I insist to exist."
The page, which was removed by MySpace in the afternoon, included a photo of Poplawski and a description in which he called himself reasonably intelligent and well-spoken, with a wild life ahead, saying that the world is his oyster.
Team 4 Uncovers Documents Illustrating Poplawski's Past
WTAE Channel 4 found court documents indicating a protection from abuse order and disorderly conduct, but no major criminal violations in Poplawski's history.
"He was just an easygoing, fun-loving guy, telling jokes," Jeff Loffler said. "Everybody knew him. He was just the kind of guy who you could have a conversation with even if you didn't know him."
One neighbor, who did not want to be identified, said, "He personally threatened my stepdaughter, and chased her through the neighborhood."
“This kid's nothing but trouble,” the neighbor said.
Poplawski is charged with three counts of criminal homicide -- relating to the shootings of officers Eric Kelly, Paul Sciullo III and Stephen Mayhle -- and a count of aggravated assault against Officer Timothy McManaway, who suffered a hand wound.
"I apologize to the families and the police officers that are there to serve and protect us, that they lost their lives, but I don't want the stories about my nephew to be told the wrong way," Klimczyk said.
In yet another turn of events, it was made public today that this young man had been influenced by other factors:
TO ORIGINAL STORY
Suspect in officers' shooting was into conspiracy theories
Sunday, April 05, 2009
By Dennis B. Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MySpaceRichard Poplawski's photo from mySpace.Richard Andrew Poplawski was a young man convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry.
His online profile suggests someone at once lonely and seething. He wrote of burning the backs of both of his hands, the first time with a cigarette, the second time for symmetry. He subscribed to conspiracy theories and, by January 2007, was posting photographs of his tattoos on white supremacist Web site Stormfront. Among his ambitions: "to accumulate enough 'I punched that [expletive] so hard' stories to match my old man."
"Crazy to me is going through the motions," he wrote on his MySpace profile three years ago. "Crazy to me is letting each day slip past you. Crazy is being insignificant. Crazy is being obscure, pointless."
No longer obscure, the 22-year-old is charged in the worst police shooting in the modern history of Pittsburgh. No one is calling his actions anything but pointless.
"He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples' right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill," said Edward Perkovic, who described himself as Mr. Poplawski's lifelong best friend.
Mr. Poplawski's view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.
"We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty," said Mr. Perkovic, who lives in Lawrenceville. "One of his concerns was why were these major events in America not being reported to the public."
Believing most media were covering up important events, Mr. Poplawski turned to a far-right conspiracy Web site run by Alex Jones, a self-described documentarian with roots going back to the extremist militia movement of the early 1990s.
Around the same time, he joined Florida-based Stormfront, which has long been a clearinghouse Web site for far-right groups. He posted photographs of his tattoo, an eagle spread across his chest.
"I was considering gettin' life runes on the outside of my calfs," he wrote. Life runes are a common symbol among white supremacists, notably followers of The National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group linked to an array of violent organizations.
"For some time now there has been a pretty good connection between being sucked into this conspiracy world and propagating violence," said Heidi Beirich, director of research at the Southern Poverty Law Center and an expert on political extremists. She called Mr. Poplawski's act, "a classic example of what happens when you start buying all this conspiracy stuff."
Mr. Perkovic said Mr. Poplawski's parents had split when he was young.
"His dad's totally out of the picture," said Mr. Perkovic.
According to his MySpace profile online, Mr. Poplawski lived in Stanton Heights, was an avid Penguins fan, considered Mario Lemieux his hero, and held his grandmother, Catherine Poplawski, whom he called "Cukie," in warm esteem.
Mr. Perkovic said his friend essentially dropped out of North Catholic High School. Officials there would only say he was asked to leave.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- a day before Mr. Poplawski's birthday -- he decided to join the military, stopped going to classes and pursued a general educational development certificate.
"In boot camp he had missed his girlfriend so he had to make a decision ... he got himself dishonorably discharged so he could come back," Mr. Perkovic said.
According to Mr. Perkovic, Mr. Poplawski tossed a lunch tray at a drill instructor.
The relationship with his girlfriend, Melissa Gladish, went sour after Mr. Poplawski returned to Pittsburgh.
Court records show that on Sept. 14, 2005, Mr. Poplawski attacked Miss Gladish outside 1016 Fairfield St., the same address at which he would later be accused of killing the three police officers.
Miss Gladish said she had gone to Mr. Poplawski's house "and he began to argue with me and call me names. When I argued back he grabbed me by my hair and said, 'Do you think I'm going to let you talk to me like that? I don't let anyone talk to me like that."'
He threatened to kill her, the records show. In a form asking Miss Gladish to list all weapons Mr. Poplawski had used, she listed "gun that the defendant says is buried in the park near his house."
Less than a month later, police sought Mr. Poplawski for violating a protection-from-abuse order after he went to Miss Gladish's workplace, a King's Restaurant, and asked her to marry him. He then moved to the West Palm Beach, Fla., area. Mr. Perkovic said he worked there as a glazier for two years.
Two years later, back in Pittsburgh, Mr. Poplawski wrote on MySpace of the episode: "She's lucky I didn't kill that broad myself. Hahaha."
Dennis Roddy can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1965
Unstable people being influenced by unstable groups of people generally end up tragically.
Posted by Nikki at 4/05/2009 02:41:00 PM