Just two weeks after four Oakland (CA) Police officers were shot and killed by a heavily armed criminal, three members of the Pittsburgh (PA) Police Bureau have been gunned down by a man armed with assault-style weapons and wearing body armor to protect himself. The NLEOMF hopes that these two extremely violent and tragic incidents are isolated events and not the beginning of a deadly new trend of brazen attacks on law enforcement in the United States.
The incident in Pittsburgh began early Saturday morning (April 4), when police received a call of a domestic disturbance in the Stanton Heights neighborhood. Officers Paul Sciullo II and Stephen Mayhle were dispatched to the scene, which was described as a domestic argument between a mother and son with no weapons involved. Officer Eric Kelly, who had just finished his midnight shift, was on his way home when he heard the call and, still in uniform, responded in his personal vehicle.
The officers were met almost immediately with gunfire from the 22-year-old murderer, who apparently knew his mother had called the police and lay in wait to ambush the police. Officers Sciullo and Mayhle were gunned down, both shot in the head, as they approached the front of the home. Officer Kelly was shot as he pulled up to the scene, and although gravely wounded, he managed to radio the “officer down” call. During the ensuing standoff, two other officers were injured as they and fellow officers valiantly removed the fallen officers from the scene, under a regular hail of gunfire.
Saturday was by far the deadliest day in the history of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, which had previously lost 62 officers dating back to the first officer death in August 1885. The only other time in which more than one officer was killed in the same incident was March 1991, when Officers Thomas Herron and Joseph Grill died in a vehicle crash during a pursuit. Prior to Saturday, it had been more than 13 years since a Pittsburgh Police officer had been killed in the line of duty: Sergeant James Henry Taylor Jr. was shot and killed in September 1995 when, while off duty, he confronted an individual spray painting graffiti.
The fact that Saturday’s multiple fatalities occurred following a domestic disturbance call is not unusual. Throughout law enforcement history, close to 600 officers have been killed while responding to these types of calls. In September 2007, three members of the Odessa (TX) Police Department were gunned down in remarkably similar fashion as they responded to a seemingly “routine” domestic call. And data from the FBI indicate that disturbance calls account for about 30 percent of all assaults on law enforcement officers in the United States—the highest percentage of any type of call.
Once again, the NLEOMF joins the entire law enforcement community in extending its sympathies to the families of the fallen Pittsburgh Police heroes, to Chief Nate Harper and the members of his department, and to the entire city of Pittsburgh, which now finds itself without three of its dedicated protectors. We, of course, will ensure that these officers’ service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.