Poplawski Browsed Web Just before Shooting

By Bauder, BobKerlik; Bob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

Poplawski Browsed Web Just before Shooting


Bauder, BobKerlik; Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Hours before a shootout at his home killed three Pittsburgh police officers on April 4, 2009, Richard Poplawski was perusing dog biscuits on the Internet and reading about a shooting that killed 14 people, a detective testified on Thursday.

Allegheny County police Detective Timothy Haney, who examined Poplawski's Compaq laptop computer, testified that between 3:30 and 5 a.m., Poplawski visited RawMeatyBones.com and looked at dog food, the Penguins fan website LetsGoPens.com,white supremacist site Stormfront.org and a Fox News link to a story about a shooting at a Binghamton, N.Y., immigration center that killed 14 people the day before.

Prosecutors contend Poplawski, wearing a No. 66 Mario Lemieux jersey, fatally shot Officers Eric G. Kelly, Stephen J. Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II at his Stanton Heights home about two hours later. Haney's testimony occurred on Day 4 of Poplawski's capital trial as part of the prosecution's lengthy presentation of forensic evidence for the Dauphin County jury hearing the case.

Several experts in forensic psychology and psychiatry said it's nearly impossible to say what was going through his mind before the shooting, despite Poplawski's Internet browsing history.

"If you didn't know he allegedly did all those horrific things, you probably wouldn't think twice about it," said Jonathan Vallano, a University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg professor who specializes in legal psychology and works as a litigation consultant. "We're very good at Monday morning quarterbacking."

Police said Poplawski ambushed the officers with a shotgun, pistol and AK-47 when they responded to an early morning 911 call made by his mother. He surrendered, wounded by gunfire, after a four- hour standoff and shootout.

The shootings seem to be in contradiction to a letter police found that Poplawski, 24, wrote in December 2007, listing his New Year's resolutions.

"To live up to my intellectual, physical, and social potential. To never allow a simple pleasure to go unappreciated, a moment to pass without drawing experience, or an opportunity to slip away," Poplawski wrote in a full-page handwritten note.

The note ended with, "To eliminate all forms of self-pity, guilt, and regret stemming from the past and keep a keen eye on the future. To develop a steadfast will in order to maintain motivation to become a complete, positive, satisfied and healthy individual."

The note was signed "Richard Andrew Poplawski." State police assisting in the investigation found the note in a hunting cabin in Clarion County owned by his mother, Trooper Matthew Baumgard testified.

The camp was a white shack with no running water and no electricity. Police also found a makeshift shooting range in the woods nearby. …

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