Worst Burgher Ever?

On April 4, 2009, Richard Poplawski gunned down Pittsburgh police officers Stephen J. Mayhle, Paul J. Sciullo II and Eric G. Kelly, killing them all.

On June 2, 2010, Richard Poplawski’s mother sued Allegheny County claiming that the negligence of the 911 dispatcher who failed to inform the officers that there were weapons in the home, caused the shootout which has rendered her home uninhabitable.

Ms. Poplawski is asking the court to force Allegheny County to pay the fair market value of her home less any outstanding balance on her mortgage as of the day of the shootings; pay the cost of living for alternative housing; and compensatory damages.

Okay. I need to pause a moment here to take a deep breath. Not to calm myself down, but to make sure I lather up the correct amount of righteous indignation and spittle.


[breathe fire]

1.  Do you know why officers Mayhle, Sciullo and Kelly went to Ms. Poplawski’s home? Because Ms. Poplawski called them. Called 911 and said, come get my son out of my house.

They went to her home in service to her.  They went to her residence to protect her and her home from her son. They paid with their lives and she’s suing the County claiming negligence is the reason her house lies in ruins.

Let THAT sink in for a moment. Let it sink in nice and deep and then ask yourself, what the hell kind of lawyer takes on such a case?

2. Yes, the 911 operator will live the rest of her life knowing she for some reason typed in “no weapons” when in fact, there were weapons. But let’s just ask ourselves this: “What if she typed in ‘known weapons?'” Would that have changed anything?

I can only imagine it would have changed how the house was approached. Instead of officers Mayhle, Sciullo and Kelly approaching the house, it would have likely been more of a full on SWAT offensive. In other words, if they had known about the weapons, her house would have STILL come under fire and it would have been SHOCK. AND. AWE.

Her son fired bullets from the home. THAT is why the house came under fire. The officers didn’t say, “Hey, there’s no weapons here. Let’s blow this popsicle stand until it has more holes than SpongeBob SquarePants!”

It wasn’t until Richard opened fire and the officers were killed that the shoot-out began.

There is one person and one person ONLY to blame for the state of Ms. Poplawski’s house and that is Richard Poplawski — the son she asked those officers to come and remove from her home.

3. The city sued Ms. Poplawski last May because her home was uninhabitable.

City inspectors found the house at 1016 Fairfield St. lacking proper ventilation and smoke alarms in bedrooms, halls and on each floor, according to letters they sent to Margaret C. Poplawski in April.

The lawsuit says Ms. Poplawski and her mother, Catherine Scott, continue to enter the home through the garage door, “thereby acknowledging there is not adequate means of ingress and egress.” The city wants to keep her from entering the property until the problems are fixed.

Ms. Poplawski’s attorney, Leonard Sweeney, said she is not living in the home, though he declined to say where she is staying. He said repairs would be made “as soon as she is allowed entrance into the property.”

The lawsuit says Ms. Poplawski has not applied for a building permit to fix the code violations.

Ah, so she went from saying she’d repair the problems to suing the County. Seems to me her home was not in the best condition before the shootout and now she’s looking for the easy way out of a mortgage on a home she can’t inhabit due to her own negligence and the actions of her son.

4. If Ms. Poplawski believes that a negligent 911 dispatcher is even REMOTELY responsible for what happened to her home, then Ms. Poplawski should be okay with us looking at her and finding her responsible as well. It’s a two way street and I wonder how she’d feel if we said, “Well, you could have thrown the bullets away. You could have thrown the guns away. You could have gotten him help. You could have answered the door. You you you. But you didn’t. I’m suing YOU for the deaths of officers Mayhle, Sciullo and Kelly.”

At the very least, she might want to ask herself this question: “Who fired first?”

And she should answer herself, “My son did. When he met them at the door and shot two of them in the head.”

5.  Is this the wrong analogy to make? But it seems like this is akin to accidentally starting a kitchen fire, calling the fire department, and then suing them for water damage.

6. If Ms. Poplawski earns one lousy cent because of the murderous actions of her son, I will lose my freaking mind and it will not be pretty and it will probably include lots of F words and possibly a straight-jacket and most definitely an overnight stay in jail.

And if she is awarded anything, I pray to God the judge rules that she shall receive a check in the amount of ten cents paid to the order of Eff You.

Rest in peace, officers.


  1. Karen
    June 3, 2010 3:25 pm

    So glad to see this. I felt exactly the same way when the story posted today. It lead to a very animated conversation in my office about the very same points you noted. It makes me sick to my stomach to think she’d even consider this. And, I’ll bet you any money that FREAKIN’ JAMES ECKER is her dirtbag attorney! Aarrgghh. God bless this city.

  2. Kate S
    June 3, 2010 3:27 pm

    Well stated.

  3. OldNorthSider
    June 3, 2010 3:30 pm

    Sickening. I don’t think Jim Ecker would stoop that low. The “worstest” Pittsburgher has to be her attorney. I am ashamed to say he hails from the North Side who was onced disbarred only to be reinstated. (http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/pa_attorney_search.php)

    Sad day in the ‘Burgh and on the North Side. RIP Officers Kelly, Scuillo and Mayhle.

  4. Bulldog
    June 3, 2010 3:37 pm

    Well done once again, oh fair maiden of all that is right and just in our fair land.

    It’s just outrageous that ANY, competent lawyer worth the paper their Bar certificate is printed on would even take this case. Your analogy to calling the fire department and then suing for water damage is also right on the money.

    You know, when this tragedy first happened a little over a year ago, one of my first thoughts was that I felt compassion for his poor mother. But she has repeatedly demonstrated since then that she is not deserving of that compassion. Three brave men DIED that day, responding to HER call for help. They GAVE THEIR LIVES trying to SAVE her. Now, children are without fathers, wives without husbands, and parents without brave sons, but she’s looking for a payday.

    As the cliche goes, “There’s a special place in ….”

  5. Wardy
    June 3, 2010 3:40 pm

    She should be charged a a conspirator in the attack. SHE neglected to tell the dispatcher that there were weapons in the house. SHE put the officers into harms way. SHE should NEVER be given a dime. She should however be charged for infecting the world with her dirtbag son!

  6. Virginia
    June 3, 2010 3:41 pm

    Wardy, she did tell the dispatcher there were legal weapons in the home. As I wrote, the dispatcher made a mistake.

  7. Bulldog
    June 3, 2010 3:46 pm

    Thanks Tribune-Review, “Poplawski could not be reached. Her attorney, Leonard E. Sweeney, declined to comment.”

    I guess we know who the dirtbag ambulance chaser is. I don’t know if that’s who OldNorthSider was referring to, but using that link I can see that he doesn’t have a great track record.

  8. Monty
    June 3, 2010 3:54 pm

    I wonder if she put a neckbrace on the house after the shootout. Shit like this wouldn’t happen if you could sue your own uterus.

  9. bluzdude
    June 3, 2010 3:58 pm

    She’s just taking a shot at a big payday. Stranger things have happened… I can’t say I’m surprised.

    Just when you think your opinion of your fellow man has bottomed out, in comes the steamshovel to dig a little deeper.

  10. Jenn
    June 3, 2010 4:03 pm

    As a wife of a police offier….Amen sister!

  11. Shane
    June 3, 2010 4:11 pm

    The 911 dispatcher made a convenient scapegoat for the Pittsburgh Police and they used her wisely. Given the level of gun ownership in PA, and how common it is for weapons to be used in domestic disputes, and how much more dangerous it is to have guns than not have guns, wouldn’t it make much, much, much more sense to go into ALL domestic dispute calls assuming the presence of deadly weapons?? This seems like such commonsense to me.

    What the Mayor and the Police did in throwing that dispatcher under the bus is ridiculous.

  12. Jared
    June 3, 2010 4:14 pm

    Well said. I feel NO empathy towards her.

  13. Jake
    June 3, 2010 4:16 pm

    Worst Pittsburgher ever – no doubt. However, while not having actually seen Ms. Poplawski’s house, it does seem suspiciously retaliatory to send building inspectors to her house and then attempt to evict her for simple problems that plague every corner of this city and that I assume were outside of the original scope of their inspection. “Holes in interior walls” and “rusted railings” – really? I understand that cumulatively the list of problems may constitute “unsanitary conditions,” but they went in there to see if the house was stable after the barrage of bullets, not to issue an occupancy permit.

  14. Lawrence
    June 3, 2010 4:16 pm

    Like it or not, the woman has a valid claim, as the omission by the 911 operator could have contributed to the outcome.

    Surely, the son is MORE responsible, but how much (if any) the omission led to the outcome is up to a jury to decide.

    The woman called the police, which is within her rights. She advised of weapons, which was proper. The place got damaged, both during AND after the incident, and now she cannot live there.

    Prior to the call, she had a place to live. Don’t let your hatred for her son’s act spill over to his mother if she’s not truly responsible.


  15. Jagoff
    June 3, 2010 4:19 pm

    Sounds like they took care of the ventilation problem for her. I don’t understand the problem.

  16. cityworker
    June 3, 2010 4:26 pm

    Just a plea to leave the lawyer alone. It is obvious that this lady is a little crazy and maybe this lawyer took the case so some other lawyer wouldn’t have to put up with her. I doubt he really thinks that he is going to get a payday out of this.

  17. Me
    June 3, 2010 4:29 pm

    I guess this is an example of the old saying, “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”

  18. Bulldog
    June 3, 2010 4:29 pm

    The woman DOES NOT have a valid claim unless she can demonstrate that the problems cited by building inspectors were caused by the 911 Dispatcher or any other county officials, which she obviously cannot. The house being found “unfit for human occupation” isn’t alleged to be caused in any way by the shootout STARTED BY HER SON.
    Read the list of discrepancies, and with the exception of the windows that were broken during the shootout STARTED BY HER SON, the problems existed before and continued since that incident.

    Having to enter and egress the building through the garage is not safe, nor does it have anything to do with the incident.

  19. Elle C.
    June 3, 2010 4:34 pm

    Sooo, is she living in the house now? How will you know where to send her ‘crown’ – a flaming bag of poo?

  20. Lawrence
    June 3, 2010 4:35 pm

    Bulldog: From the PG article…if you have better info, maybe you should write to them: “Mrs. Poplawski then claims that as a direct result of her son’s conduct, and the neglect shown by the 911 dispatcher, the exchange of gunfire between Pittsburgh officers and Richard Poplawski resulted in extensive damage to her home.”

    Whether or not she can “prove that” remains to be seen, but it is not obvious enough, as you say, based on what is in the PG article.


  21. toni
    June 3, 2010 4:46 pm

    The woman is a certified nutcase. I console myself with the thought of the laughter of the judge in the courtroom on this case right before he either turns her down or throws it out.

    The sweetest consolation to me is that after this happens she receives the bill from the lawyer for his time for taking on this case. And then she gets hit with the penaltys from city inspectors.

  22. Theodore
    June 3, 2010 4:50 pm

    Would the readers here be just as angry at the homeowner if this was one of the many erroneous “no-knock” raids where homes are damaged, dogs (or even their owners) are shot and killed, etc. and the homeowner sued for damages?

    Of course it is terrible what happened, but damn, why does everyone insist that she should just “take one for the team,” especially when she’s pretty clearly being retaliated against by governmental authorities already (as someone mentioned above)with the code violation selective enforcement.

    Get your emotions in check, people!

  23. Jimmy Jones
    June 3, 2010 4:50 pm

    @Lawrence = “Don’t let your hatred for her son’s act spill over to his mother if she’s not truly responsible.”

    She gave birth to him, right? She raised him, correct? I don’t care how old he is and that he is an adult. It probably has no legal standing but she is partially to blame, in my mind, simply for being a bad mother. If you bring a horrible person into this world I think society has a right to blame you, to a certain extent, for that person’s horrible actions.

  24. empirechick
    June 3, 2010 4:51 pm

    cityworker #16 – “maybe this lawyer took the case so some other lawyer wouldn’t have to put up with her.”

    ARE YOU SERIOUS? Lawyers don’t open an email without billing for it, and you think this guy took the case only to save his fellow lawyers the trouble and ISN’T looking for a big payday???

    (If your comment was meant with total sarcasm or to troll, then I apologize for taking the bait.)

  25. Lawrence
    June 3, 2010 4:56 pm

    @Jimmy Jones – You’re right…no legal standing.

    And you actually don’t know if she was a bad mother. You probably blame Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold’s parents partially for the Columbine shootings too, don’t you?

    If so, I believe you’d be wrong. In fact, if anyone does think along those lines (in the Columbine case OR this one) you may want to read the book “Columbine” that just came out. It will be enlightening.


  26. empirechick
    June 3, 2010 4:59 pm

    Lawrence –

    The PG article states “Mrs. Poplawski then claims that as a direct result of her son’s conduct, AND the neglect shown by the 911 dispatcher,…” (emphasis mine)

    So shouldn’t she be suing Richard for at least half, since she acknowledges that he was also to blame?

  27. Lawrence
    June 3, 2010 5:02 pm

    If multiple people contribute to harm, you don’t have to sue them all.

  28. DG
    June 3, 2010 5:07 pm

    She is suing not only for the damange sustained during the shoot-out itself, but for the property damage that ensued when the county executed search warrants after the fact. The complaint alleges that “Plaintiff’s property was dug up, sections of concrete were uprooted, sections of the interior were removed and the interior of Plaintiff’s real property were left in shambles.”

  29. Suburban Mom
    June 3, 2010 5:16 pm

    Geez. Get ahold of yourselves. 3 men where shot to death because the Mother woke up her son up out of a deep sleep to yell at him that his dog peed on the carpet & a fight ensued. I hope this case doesn’t get tossed on merit — I for one would like to be on the jury. She broke the cardinal rule of motherhood — Never wake a sleeping baby!

  30. Luke Steelerstahl
    June 3, 2010 6:18 pm

    Don’t worry, we’ll pay her.

    We always pay.

  31. Kathy
    June 3, 2010 6:43 pm

    @ Monty – word

    I think she should be sued for raising an AK-47 gun toting son. and I agree, the lawsuit should determine percentage of responsibility (the city or someone else – like her poo-bag son) and then require payment at the percentage of responsibility of the responsible parties. Of course, I don’t know how quickly she’ll get that money at the $.30/hr rate her son is making.

  32. Shannon
    June 3, 2010 7:00 pm

    Very well said, Ginny. I heard this story on the morning news and wanted to scream! What reasoning in that head of hers tells her it’s ok to file a lawsuit against the county for this??? I just do not understand. Let’s forget that her son killed three people that were there to protect her. UNFREAKINGBELIEVABLE.

  33. Carol
    June 3, 2010 7:02 pm

    This woman raised her nutcase son, allowing him to live in her house with his weapons.
    I think she has a great deal of responsibility for the whole thing.

  34. JD
    June 3, 2010 7:15 pm

    I am shocked at some of the comments that have been made rationalizing or making excuses for this woman and her actions. The fact remains that three families lost a son, father, and husband. In my book that loss trumps any property values anywhere.

    Why can’t anyone take responsibility for their own actions or the actions of their kids anymore? If Ms. Poplawski thinks she was dealt a bad hand she has no one to blame but her son.

    Ms. Poplawski and Mr. Sweeny’s actions are deplorable. Ms. Poplawski should not expect to recoup losses she feels the city caused when her losses and those of the other families involved where caused by her son.

    I am sick over how litigious our society has become…then again maybe Ms. Poplawski’s neighbors should sue HER and her SON over the decline in their own property values.

    Makes me SICK!!! What a horrible day for the families of the fallen officers who can never recoup their losses.

  35. KGC
    June 3, 2010 7:18 pm

    And. That’s. Church.

    Amen, Ginny.

  36. LegallyPgh(Kathy)
    June 3, 2010 7:19 pm

    Ginny: Thank you for writing the words that I could not get out without every other word being a swear word. As the wife of a SWAT team police officer, the fact that this woman is suing literally makes me ill. As an attorney, the fact that someone will represent her in this farce of a lawsuit makes me once again embarrassed for my profession.

    To those who commented about the “destruction” caused by forced entries into homes — hopefully you or a family member will never need the assistance of a SWAT team to come and rescue you or attempt to disarm a loved one without just shooting to kill. If you ever do need their assistance then you might reconsider your opinion. For your sake, I hope that never happens.

  37. megrcam51
    June 3, 2010 7:32 pm

    I am not usually one to blame the parents for the act of the son, HOWEVER, as a mother, if this were my son I would be so humiliated, so guilt-stricken, so remorseful that you would never hear from me again because I would be hiding out, living under another name doing everything I could do make the world a better place, praying to God for the families of the police officers.

    And to think that MY TAX DOLLARS now have to go to defend this??

  38. Anna
    June 3, 2010 7:34 pm

    OMG – I shoulda guessed it was Sweeney. I have no words.

  39. Shari
    June 3, 2010 8:08 pm

    Oh, Jim Ecker *would* stoop that low……

  40. BeauJacques
    June 3, 2010 9:13 pm

    The 911 system has tremendous responsibilities,
    lives are at stake.
    Not unlike the the responsibilty of Air Traffic Controllers, competence is non-negotiable.

    Dan Onorato’s “county-wide” 911 system is
    staffed with affirmative action and political patronage flunkies.

    The February snowstorm death in Hazelwood rests
    squarely on the 911 Call Center’s plate also.

    That was quickly swerved to the EMS because of Danny’s Governor bid.

    Those 3 policeman would be alive today if 911 had done their job- PERIOD!

    Pay up!!

  41. L-A
    June 3, 2010 9:48 pm

    @ BeauJacques – by your reasoning, they should “pay up” to the families of those that lost their lives, NOT to the mother of the POS who killed their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons for damage to her stupid effing house.

  42. BeauJacques
    June 3, 2010 10:19 pm


    You can believe the families have been informed
    of their negligent tort positions.

    Timing is everything!

    You didn’t hear ONE peep out of Onorato’s
    mouth following the cops murders, or the Hazelwood
    death, or for that matter anything in regard to the snowstorm,

    watch and see (or more importantly NOT see) the
    actual 911 calls, the internal followups, the negligence.

    This will get settled for good money and go away.

    They do NOT want the incompetence exposed!

  43. Roxy
    June 3, 2010 11:03 pm

    At first glance I too was angered by the situation. I then went on to read all the articles. First it is sad that the police offers lost their lives because of her son.

    My question however would be this…. Would she still be suing if the city didn’t first slap lawsuits on her for the condition her home was in?

    Some of the things in the suit are issues anyone might face that they haven’t been able to afford to fix yet. Would she have been targeted if the incident never happened for such things as rusted railings and smoke alarms?

    What her son did is not excusable and he should play some blame in the destruction of her home.

  44. Lisa J
    June 4, 2010 5:39 am

    First – she will get her civil trial. However, Alleghent County is known for having the most unsympathetic juries in the state. While I’m sure that the city, county, and 911 dispatcher are technically responsible for damage to her home, I believe they will find those parties are less responsible than she and her son is. She won’t get a dime. With any luck the “defendants” will force the suit to include her son.
    Second – I remember that day. Seeing officer Kelly’s picture and wondering why he looked so familiar. I walked into work the next day to find out a dear co-worker of mine is his nephew and they couldn’t look more alike. Seeing the grief first hand, I’m left wishing this woman WOULD “take one for the team” and not put these families through any more pain.

  45. megrcam51
    June 4, 2010 6:59 am

    @BeauJacques: Is that you, Sweeney?

  46. Bulldog
    June 4, 2010 8:13 am

    Lawrence, I don’t need to contact the Post-Gazette. They already have the information. It was written up in all of the articles that Ginny posted originally, and I read them all again, before I posted.

    The problem with this woman’s case is that a jury will need to decide that the damage resulting in the legal condemnation of her property was a result of the government’s mistake rather than her failure to maintain her property in accordance with building code.

    Ginny noted quite well in her original posting that the bigger question is how the outcome might have been “better” for the mother if “known weapons” had been included in the original dispatch report. Most importantly, the 3 murdered officers might be alive today, but that isn’t the point of this ridiculous lawsuit. They likely would have responded with more armed force and SWAT likely would have responded as well.

    HER SON is the one who initiated the gunfire exchange. The responding officers will not be held liable for returning fire which was a totally reasonable response and I fail to see how 12 reasonable men & women will conclude that her home would not have been damaged if they new ahead of time that he was armed. The psycho who initiated the gunfire didn’t wasn’t aware of whether the officers knew he was armed, nor did it matter. They didn’t approach the house responding to the call with guns blazing. He murdered them in cold blood and presence of the mother inside is the only thing that stopped them from totally raining destruction upon that house.

  47. JAF
    June 4, 2010 8:29 am

    Sweeney is her attorney and an incompetent idiot. I have personal knowledge of this guy. He was on the opposite side of a real estate matter I worked on and the guy is either completely unscrupulous, an idiot or both. The public should be aware and stay away from this guy.

    Also, Ms. Poplawski is being sued by Chase Bank in a mortgage foreclosure action – she hasn’t made a payment since April 2009. Her defense – impossibility of performance based on the negligence of Alleghney County. To which the bank has answered essentially too bad ….

  48. BeauJacques
    June 4, 2010 8:57 am

    Jury?? HAHA!

    This thing will NEVER get to a jury!

    The election for governor is in November,
    they will demand, and be entitled to the
    original 911 call which was withheld.

    They will NEVER let that tape, or the inside reports be released.

    They will PAY!

  49. BeauJacques
    June 4, 2010 8:58 am

    PS- Or more accurately-

    We will pay!