By Dan Nephin
PITTSBURGH — Law enforcement officials from as far away as Georgia and Boston gathered Wednesday to pay tribute to three fellow officers killed in the line of duty over the weekend.
Allegheny County police officers led three riderless horses to Pittsburgh's City-County Building, where mourners from the region and a host of police and correction officials visited the bodies of Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo II.
The officers were shot to death Saturday morning while responding to an argument between a mother and her 22-year-old son, who is jailed on homicide charges.
R. Joseph Mason, a motor officer patrolman in Cobb County, Ga., north of Atlanta, drove up in a rental van with five fellow officers.
"We just don't wear uniforms in Cobb County. We wear them all over the country," he said. "And we wear the same uniforms. The band of brothers, the color blue sticks together."
Though he did not expect to meet the officers' families, he said, "There's thousands of people behind them, thousands of officers who love them and care about them."
Sgt. Joe Teahan, of the Boston Police Department, was one of 75 Boston officers and 25 from surrounding departments who will attend Thursday's memorial service. He said police officers are "pretty much a fraternity throughout the country."
"We're showing them that we got their backs," he said. "I think the families see the support from the number of guys here to let them know they're not alone. They know there are other guys out there, much like their husbands or fathers. ... We care."
Jane Bean, a retired counselor for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, made the trip from the suburb of South Park to pay her respects to the fallen officers. Her daughter and son-in-law are police officers in suburban Pittsburgh departments.
"You just admire and honor what they do," Bean said as she fought back tears. "It's time like this you realize how important they are."
Police say Richard Poplawski shot the officers when they arrived at his mother's house Saturday morning after she called 911 to ask them to remove him.
When officers arrived, Margaret Poplawski opened the door for them. She later told police that she didn't know that her son was standing behind her with a gun.
Sciullo was shot in the home and Mayhle on the front stoop. Both men were dead within seconds. Kelly was shot as he arrived to provide backup, prompting a four-hour siege and gun battle with police, authorities said.
Another officer, Timothy McManaway, was shot in the hand and a fifth broke his leg on a fence.
Authorities said Poplawski was wearing a bulletproof vest and was armed with a variety of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle.
Poplawski sustained wounds to his legs and is being held under close observation at the Allegheny County Jail on criminal homicide, attempted homicide and other charges.
Friends have said Poplawski was upset and angry about losing his job a few months ago, feared that President Barack Obama would take away his gun rights and believed Jews controlled the news media. Internet rantings found on a white supremacist Web site indicate Poplawski was preoccupied with the idea that Obama was going to overturn the Second Amendment and that Jews were secretly running the country.
Poplawski's public defender asked a judge on Wednesday to impose a gag order to prevent police from talking about the case. Lisa Middleman said police have disclosed what Poplawski said to them and other information about the case.
A spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said prosecutors would remind police not to talk.
Josh Davis, a 27-year-old student from Pittsburgh, waited outside the City-County Building several hours before doors opened to the public. He shook hands with officers and thanked them for their service.
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"They put their lives on the line," he said. "(They) go through hell for us."