- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PITTSBURGH (AP) | Three police officers killed while answering a call about a woman fighting with her son didn't know the man had weapons, but a 911 operator did. She just didn't tell anyone.

The operator, who was hired in November, should have asked for more information and didn't relay even the basic information she had to police dispatchers, the official in charge of county dispatchers said. She is now on paid administrative leave and is receiving counseling because supervisors are concerned about her well-being.

The three officers killed Saturday morning will lie in state at the City-County Building on Wednesday, and all three will be honored at a memorial service Thursday. Richard Poplawski, 22, is under close observation at the Allegheny County Jail on criminal homicide, attempted homicide and other charges, said Warden Ramon Rustin.

Robert Full, Allegheny County chief of emergency services, said the 911 operator is too distraught to be interviewed, so officials don't fully understand why she didn't press for more information about the guns. She apparently inferred the weapons weren't a factor because her conversation with the mother was casual and because Mr. Poplawski didn't report being threatened, he said.

Mr. Full said she had shown “tremendous aptitude,” but made a “definite error” in her handling of Saturday's call. “If we were told there were weapons in the house, we should have told that to the police officers,” he said.

When officers arrived at the house, Margaret Poplawski opened the door for them. She later told police that she didn't know that her 22-year-old son was standing behind her with a gun.

Police say Mr. Poplawski shot Officer Paul Sciullo II, 37, in the home and Officer Stephen Mayhle, 29, on the front stoop within seconds. He then shot Officer Eric Kelly, 41, in the street as he arrived to back them up, prompting a four-hour siege and gunbattle with police, authorities said.

Mr. Poplawski was wearing body armor and was armed with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, although police have declined to say what kind of weapon he used to kill the officers.

He is also charged with firing into two neighboring homes, injuring nobody, and at nine other police officers, including one who was wounded as he tended to Officer Kelly.

Mr. Poplawski faces an April 17 preliminary hearing. His public defender has declined to discuss the case.

An expert on 911 procedures told the Associated Press that dispatchers generally should relay as much unfiltered information to police as possible.

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