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Pa. SWAT honored for shootout actions

By Jerome L. Sherman
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — On April 4, police Sgt. Sam Todd was finishing a training session in Texas when he discovered that he had 25 voice mail messages, all asking about a gun battle in Pittsburgh. The calls came from emergency response officers from across the country who wanted to know what had happened to the city's nationally renowned SWAT team and what, if anything, they could do to help.

Sgt. Todd, president of the Ohio Tactical Officers Association and a police officer in Kent, gathered the facts: three Pittsburgh officers were dead, and a gunman had fired nearly 800 rounds of ammunition during a 40-minute shootout. But Pittsburgh SWAT members had contained the bloodshed. The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Richard Poplawski, had surrendered.

"The firefight would rival stuff that goes on in the military," Sgt. Todd said last week. "The fact that they stood in there and did the best they could to get the guy arrested -- there aren't too many guys, even in this line of work, who would do that." The team's actions have won praise throughout the close-knit community of officers who focus on SWAT, or "Special Weapons And Tactics." On Thursday, the Pittsburgh team will receive a valor award in Tulsa, Okla., at the annual gathering of the National Tactical Officers Association.

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