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It was three years ago that Pittsburgh police officers Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II were killed in a standoff in Stanton Heights.
Wednesday night, friends, relatives and fellow officers attended a special memorial service for the patrolmen at St. Joseph Church in Bloomfield.
Organizers say they wanted it to be a solemn tribute, but also an uplifting celebration of their lives and the sacrifices they made.
A local community gave a wounded police officer a hero’s welcome and tribute.
Clairton Police Officer James Kuzak was shot three times in the line of duty in April. Today, he was the grand marshal of the annual Fourth of July parade in Brentwood.
Those who lined the streets honored Kuzak and all of those who have put their lives on the line to protect us and our freedom.
It was just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday when word spread that the jury in the trial of Richard Poplawski had reached a verdict.
Pittsburgh Police in the downtown area rushed to the Allegheny County Courthouse, wanting to hear what the jury of five women and seven men had decided after about three hours and 15 minutes of deliberation.
Hundreds of people packed St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bloomfield today to remember three police officers killed two years ago and to dedicate a memorial in their honor.
Their service to the community will never die, will never be forgotten,” the Rev. John Dinello said of Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly, who were killed by a gunman in Stanton Heights on April 4, 2009. “They watch over us from heaven.”
The memorial statue is of a strong but sorrowful St. Michael the Archangel, the patron of police officers, standing on a mosaic pedestal with embedded photographs of the three officers. It was erected in a small memorial garden on land granted by both the City of Pittsburgh and the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Money is still being raised for the memorial, partly through the sale of small memorial police shields bearing the number 4/4/09. For more information about the memorial see http://www.bloomfieldnow.com/pittsburgh-fallen-heroes-fund/
Rankin police Officer Latisha Cassidy-McClelland was patrolling the sprawling Hawkins Village housing complex in May when a heated argument between two men marred the otherwise quiet Saturday morning.
Instead of leaving, she drove around a corner and came back, pretending to write reports in her idling squad car as she listened to the men through an open window.
At the time, she couldn’t tell what triggered their fight. Now she believes her decision to stop likely spared one man’s life and kept another out of prison.
She recalled her work in Hawkins Village on Friday, after she was recognized during the Amen Corner’s annual Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards, a prestigious marker for officers’ “courage and accomplishment” in protecting their Western Pennsylvania communities.
Officer McClelland said she recognized one of the arguing men as a former Westinghouse High School student; she also works for Pittsburgh Public Schools police. He ran over to her.
They came from different ranks and units, with cargo pants and duty belts, looking prepared for the rigors of a test that would open the doors to one of the police bureau’s most elite teams.
Around a conference room table at the Pittsburgh police bureau’s North Side headquarters last week, they looked unfazed when a lieutenant reminded them that the SWAT team is an around-the-clock commitment, for both them and their families.
“If this is what you want to do, you’re expected to be here for the call-outs,” Lt. Joseph Tersak told the nine candidates before they set out on the daylong tryout. “Thank you for your interest. And good luck.”
But, as a message scrawled on a white board inside their heavily armored truck would caution, “Luck is not part of this operation!”
Instead, a mix of physical stamina and mental fortitude would help them pass this test. But even passing doesn’t guarantee them a spot on the tactical unit, which is expanding from 39 to 46 members.
Those who qualified during tryouts last week must also excel during even more strenuous basic and advanced SWAT training before they are ranked and finally chosen by the police chief.
Easter Mass, traditionally an occasion to celebrate the risen, was a moment to remember the fallen at a Catholic church in Bloomfield Sunday.
People crowded into the pews at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish on Liberty Avenue, filling all the rows and overflowing into the back recesses of the church.
Some may have attended to observe the religious holiday, but many were there to mark the one-year anniversary of the day three city police officers were killed in the line of duty.
The deaths of Officers Paul Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly, who were gunned down while responding to a domestic call in Stanton Heights, rocked the city of Pittsburgh, devastating three families and a police force.
Over the past year, their deaths have been mourned, their lives honored and their families supported by a stunned city. The first anniversary of the deaths happened to fall on Easter, a day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
This religious feast, the end of the Lenten season of fasting and prayer, is traditionally marked by a church service filled with hallelujahs, bright-colored dresses, fragrant flowers and proclamations of “Christ is risen.”
At Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish, where Officer Sciullo attended Mass, the dark uniforms of police officers offered a stark contrast to the spring hues that colored the congregation.
At first their eyes were dry, even as bagpipes wailed and a police chaplain spoke of their enduring heartache.
But the moment honor guards emerged with photographs of the three fallen officers’ stoic faces, grief washed through the crowd of police, their families and friends.
The tears during Friday’s remembrance seemed as fresh as those shed a year ago for Officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly. But this time, the tears broke for laughter as mourners tried to celebrate the officers’ lives without dwelling on their deaths.
Relatives and friends told of their humor, their family pride, their devotion to police work. Outside the Zone 5 station in Highland Park, hundreds of officers and dignitaries, children and retirees gathered in the warmth of a brilliant sun and recalled happier times, though the shadow of the deadly shooting in Stanton Heights loomed.
“What happened on that date to me is still unfathomable, incomprehensible, unimaginable and reprehensible,” the Rev. John Welch said, encouraging the crestfallen not to let the incident hold them captive as the anniversary renews a pain that none could say has vanished.
A suspended Pittsburgh police officer wants his job back following his acquittal Thursday on charges stemming from a South Side shooting during an off-duty arrest.
Paul Abel, 35, an eight-year veteran, grabbed his attorney and shook his hand after Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning announced not-guilty verdicts for aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and drunken driving.
Abel declined comment after the verdict, but when asked if he planned to get his job back, he said, “Yes.”
Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said Abel will remain off the job for now. Police union attorney Bryan Campbell said the union filed a grievance and the matter likely will head to arbitration.
Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, declined comment.
Manning chastised Abel for the June 28 incident but said his actions did not rise to the level of a crime. Abel has said he drank four beers and two shots that night while celebrating his wife’s 26th birthday at two South Side bars.
“The court does not condone your conduct here,” Manning said. “It finds that it was inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised under the circumstances.”
Abel was accused of pistol-whipping Kaleb Miller and shooting him in the hand near the intersection of Sidney and South 20th streets. Abel said Miller, 21, was the man who approached his car, punched him in the face minutes earlier and then ran off.
Abel, who drove around the block and spotted Miller on the street, said he was attempting to arrest Miller when his gun accidentally discharged as he tried to get Miller on the ground.
Two tow truck drivers said they witnessed Abel getting punched in the face as he sat at a red light in his car. But the truck drivers backed up Miller’s story that he wasn’t the man who did it.
Regardless of whether Miller was the right man, Abel’s attorney, William Difenderfer, said off-duty police officers are entitled to make arrests.
“It actually brings up a great issue of ‘are police officers — and rightfully so — expected to perform their duty, off duty?’” Difenderfer said.
Beth Pittinger, director of the city’s Citizen Police Review Board, watched the trial and said officers should not be making arrests if they’re drunk.
“Alcohol and firearms are a very volatile combination, and you saw that happen here,” said Pittinger.
Pittsburgh police Assistant Chief William Bochter said bureau policy does not specifically address alcohol consumption by off-duty officers, but says that they must act within ethical standards.
“Being off duty does not mitigate misconduct,” Bochter said. “Officers are directly accountable for their actions at all times — whether on duty or off duty — through their chain of command to the chief of police.”
Campbell said the rules are broad, and officers have discretion to act as they see fit.
“Say Abel saw somebody shoot somebody else. Is he supposed to let the shooter get away? I’d say no,” Campbell said. “What if an officer’s off duty and he sees a person getting beaten but didn’t do anything because he had a few beers?”
Speaking outside the courtroom, Chuck Hanlon, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said its members are police officers 24 hours a day.
“The testimony was that Mr. Abel was assaulted,” Hanlon said. “It’s his responsibility as a citizen and a police officer to act. If Paul had stopped a bank robbery that night, he’d be a hero.”
Well, YAY. Just too bad it had to take three men dying to get this policy change.
Pittsburgh police officers will soon have the option of carrying rifles in their patrol cars.
Pittsburgh Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson said the desire for increased firepower gained new urgency with the fatal shootings of three officers on April 4 in the city’s Stanton Heights neighborhood.
Each officer will undergo a three-day training period before being able to carry a rifle.