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Profile: Richard Poplawski
Richard Poplawski was a participant or observer in the following events:
Within hours of Richard Poplawski’s murder of three Pittsburgh police officers (see April 4, 2009), the media learns that he is an avowed racist and white supremacist who has been preparing for a violent confrontation with authorities. Poplawski has contributed to racist Web sites, writing about his hatred of “race mixing,” the economic recession, Zionist conspiracies, and his fondness for his “AK” rifle. He also bears what one columnist will describe as a “Nazi-style tattoo,” and on Stormfront, a neo-Nazi Web site, described the tattoo as a “deliberately Americanized version of the [Nazi] iron eagle.” In a March 13 post on a racist site, he wrote: “One can read the list of significant persons in government and in major corporations and see who is pulling the strings. One can observe the policies and final products and should walk away with little doubt there is Zionist occupation and—after some further research [and] critical thinking—will discover their insidious intentions.” In the same month, Poplawski also posted that “the federal government, mainstream media, and banking system in these United States are strongly under the influence of—if not completely controlled by—Zionist interest. An economic collapse of the financial system is inevitable, bringing with it some degree of civil unrest if not outright balkanization of the continental US, civil/revolutionary/racial war.… This collapse is likely engineered by the elite Jewish powers that be in order to make for a power and asset grab.” His more recent posts, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), were escalating in their rhetorical violence, urging fellow white supremacists to achieve “ultimate victory for our people” by “taking back our nation.” He promised that he would be “ramping up the activism” soon. After the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in February 2009, Poplawski dismissed NFL football as what he called “negroball,” then went out, conducted surveillance of how police tried to control crowds, and posted about his findings, saying that it was a prelude to the government rounding up citizens for imprisonment in concentration camps. Most of Poplawski’s postings were on Stormfront and Infowars, a conspiracy-minded Web site hosted by radio talk show host Alex Jones. The posts began, as far as can be ascertained, in 2007 and ended a few hours before the shootings. The ADL’s Mark Pitcavage says of Poplawski’s writings: “Cumulatively, what these postings reveal is a lot more about his mindset. They show a growing anti-government and anti-police hostility.” Other postings made by Poplawski show his intense, race-based dislike of President Obama and his intention to violently resist any government attempts to take away his guns. Pitcavage notes that in the last month, Poplawski changed his online moniker from “Rich P” to “Braced for Fate.” He says of the change, “I mean, this is talking about some inevitable confrontation, and possibly a fatal confrontation.” [New York Times, 4/7/2009; Anti-Defamation League, 4/8/2009; Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6/12/2009] Mrs. Poplawski tells police that her son, who was discharged from the Marine Corps for assaulting his drill sergeant during basic training, had been “stockpiling guns and ammunition, buying and selling the weapons online, because he believed that as a result of the economic collapse, the police were no longer able to protect society.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/6/2009] Poplawski and his friend Edward Perkovic collaborated on an Internet broadcast where they showed video clips and talked politics [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/4/2009] , including a clip and subsequent discussion of a discussion on Fox News between host Glenn Beck and guest Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), which featured warnings about concentration camps run by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Perkovic, who shares many of Poplawski’s beliefs, will say of his friend: “He was really into politics and really into the First and Second Amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples’ right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill.” He adds: “We recently discovered that 30 states had declared sovereignty. One of his concerns was why were these major events in America not being reported to the public.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/5/2009; Anti-Defamation League, 4/8/2009] On his MySpace page, Perkovic has written of his admiration for a novel called The Turner Diaries, which depicts the white supremacist takeover of the US and the extermination of minorities (see 1978), and the long-debunked “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a manifesto that purports to lay out the plans of “Zionists” to take over the world. [Crooks and Liars, 4/4/2009] Perkovic has posted about the “Zionist occupied government,” “mixed bloodlines that will erase national identity,” and Jewish control of the media. [Anti-Defamation League, 4/8/2009]
Richard Poplawski. [Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Pittsburgh resident Richard Poplawski kills three police officers after his mother calls 911 to have him removed from her home. According to a criminal complaint and affidavit, around 7 a.m. Margaret Poplawski and her son begin arguing over a dog urinating in the house; the argument escalates to the point where she calls the police to have him removed. When officers Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo arrive, Mrs. Poplawski asks them inside. Unbeknownst to his mother, Poplawski has donned a bulletproof vest and taken up an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, a .22 long rifle, and a pistol. From a position behind his mother, he shoots both officers in the head, killing them almost instantly. His mother hears the gunshots and flees to the basement, screaming, “What the hell have you done?” Poplawski shoots Mayhle again to ensure his death, then shoots a third officer, Eric Kelly, when he arrives to provide assistance. Kelly, critically wounded, manages to call for assistance; a fourth officer, Timothy McManaway, is shot in the hand as he arrives on the scene and attempts to help Kelly. Kelly will die at the hospital from multiple wounds to the torso and legs.
Four-Hour Siege - Poplawski retreats to his bedroom and, as police assemble outside the home, fires at the officers. Police return fire, and between them, hundreds of shots are exchanged. During the siege, Poplawski calls a friend, Edward Perkovic, and tells him: “Eddie, I’m going to die today. Tell your family and friends I love them. This is probably the end.” The standoff between Poplawski and police lasts some four hours before officers finally persuade Poplawski to surrender; they enter the house and lead him out in handcuffs. Poplawski suffers at least one bullet wound during the exchange of gunfire. After the standoff, neighbors describe the scene as a “war zone.” Police have been called numerous times to the Poplawski residence to break up fights and disputes between mother and son. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson will later say of the shootings: “I’d like to understand why. It’s senseless.” [Associated Press, 4/5/2009; New York Times, 4/5/2009; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/6/2009; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/8/2009] Poplawski is held without bail in the Alleghany County Jail, charged with the murder of three police officers, the shooting of a fourth, and eight counts of assault derived from his shooting at other officers. His grandmother, Catherine Scott, will tell a reporter that she is praying for her grandson, but: “My grandson did a terrible thing. There is no mercy for what he did.” [Associated Press, 4/5/2009; New York Times, 4/13/2009] Poplawski will later say he planned on forcing the police to kill him, but decided to surrender so he could write a book from inside prison. He will express no remorse for the men he kills. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/8/2009]
White Supremacist, Anti-Semitic, Feared Gun Confiscation - The media will soon learn that Poplawski is a white supremacist who hates Jews and fears his guns will be taken away by the government (see April 4, 2009 and April 4, 2009 and After).
Many in the media speculate as to the motivations behind Richard Poplawski’s murder of three Pittsburgh police officers, which takes place on this day (see April 4, 2009). Findings that Poplawski is a white supremacist who hates Jews and fears that the federal government will confiscate his guns (see April 4, 2009) lead some to speculate that he was driven to violence by right-wing speculation and hate speech. In June 2009, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert will call Poplawski’s action a “right-wing, hate-driven attack,” and note that Poplawski and others like him have been inflamed by information provided by such organizations as the National Rifle Association (NRA), which consistently tells its Web site visitors that President Obama is planning to mount a nationwide gun confiscation. Herbert will also note that a friend of Poplawski’s told reporters that the shooter “feared the Obama gun ban that’s on the way.” [New York Times, 6/19/2009] In the days after Poplawski’s killing spree, Daily Beast columnist Max Blumenthal will speculate that Poplawski was driven to violence by the steady diet of right-wing hate speech and anti-government conspiracy theories he immersed himself in. Blumenthal notes that Alex Jones of Infowars, while himself not an advocate of white supremacy, is popular on the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront.org for his incessant diatribes about the imminent takeover of the citizenry by FEMA and the Obama administratrion’s plans on confiscating guns as part of its plan to establish a leftist dictatorship. Blumenthal also notes Poplawski’s fondness for Fox News’s Glenn Beck, who often repeats and embellishes Jones’s conspiracy theories on his show, and his apparent self-affiliation with the radical fringes of the Tea Party movement. Author and reporter David Neiwert will tell Blumenthal: “It’s always been a problem when major-league demagogues start promulgating false information for political gain. What it does is unhinge fringe players from reality and dislodges them even further. When someone like Poplawski hears Glenn Beck touting One World Government and ‘they’re gonna take your gun’ theories, they believe then that it must be true. And that’s when they really become crazy.” [Daily Beast, 4/7/2009] Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an expert on political extremists, says of Poplawski’s views, “For some time now there has been a pretty good connection between being sucked into this conspiracy world and propagating violence.” She says Poplawski’s attack on the police is “a classic example of what happens when you start buying all this conspiracy stuff.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/5/2009]
Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck attempts to disavow any connection between his rhetoric and accused murderer Richard Poplawski, who killed three police officers in Pittsburgh two days ago (see April 4, 2009). Poplawski said he was influenced by Beck and other conservative talk show hosts who have repeatedly warned that the government intends to forcibly confiscate citizens’ guns (see April 4, 2009). Beck tells his listeners, “[T]he press, the blogs, everybody immediately went to, ‘This guy’s a conservative with guns that says Obama’s coming.’” But later in his show, Beck repeats his assertions, telling viewers that President Obama “will slowly but surely take away your gun or take away your ability to shoot a gun, carry a gun. He will make them more expensive; he’ll tax them out of existence. He will because he has said he would. He will tax your gun or take your gun away one way or another.” [Media Matters, 4/9/2009]
Mike Gallagher. [Source: All Access (.com)]Conservative radio host Mike Gallagher discusses an exchange between the Second Amendment Foundation’s Alan Gottlieb and MSNBC anchor David Shuster that occurred the night before, on MSNBC’s Hardball. Gallagher lauds Gottlieb’s “great job in explaining logically why people are worried about what the Obama administration wants to do with our guns,” and airs a clip from the conversation in which Shuster asked Gottlieb, “Do you believe that the Obama administration and the Feds are coming to take away everybody’s guns?” Gottlieb replied: “I believe that’s what they would like to do. I don’t think we’re going to let them get away with it.” Gallagher later tells his listeners: “[L]isten to the way Gottlieb leaves the liberal columnist stuttering and stammering, explaining very eloquently why so many of us are worried and scurrying to buy guns right now.… [I]f you think the government might take your rights away from you, you want to try and exercise them before that happens. It’s a normal reaction.” Gallagher suggests “a national movement to register as many people as we can… to become gun owners,” and continues: “We’re going to set up a Web site, we’re going to get listener participation on this, we’re going to register and create as many gun owners—new, first-time gun owners as possible. I don’t even want to set a number. I’m number one—I’ll be the first one.” However, Gallagher criticizes media reports that state Pittsburgh cop-killer Richard Poplawski killed three police officers for fear that government or law enforcement officials would take away his guns (see April 4, 2009). [Media Matters, 4/7/2009; Media Matters, 4/9/2009]
Rep. Louis Gohmert. [Source: Associated Press / Washington Blade]Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) lays out a skein of theories on radical radio host Alex Jones’s broadcast. During his interview with Jones, Gohmert accuses the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats of trying to implement socialism and kill senior citizens; Jones and Gohmert compare Obama to a number of foreign despots. Gohmert tells Jones and his listeners: “We’ve been battling this socialist health care, the nationalization of health care, that is going to absolutely kill senior citizens. They’ll put them on lists and force them to die early because they won’t get the treatment as early as they need.… I would rather stop this socialization of health care because once the government pays for your health care, they have every right to tell you what you eat, what you drink, how you exercise, where you live.… But if we’re going to pay 700 million dollars like we voted last Friday to put condoms on wild horses, and I know it just says an un-permanent enhanced contraception whatever the heck that is. I guess it follows that they’re eventually get around to doing it to us.” Gohmert is echoing claims by Republican lawmakers and industry lobbyists that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal will kill senior citizens (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009). Jones ups the ante by accusing the White House “science czar” of planning to “put… stuff in the water to sterilize us,” and then goes on to accuse the White House of, among other things, implementing a “eugenics control grid over us” and implementing “youth brigades, national service compulsory in a group outside the military under the Democratic Party control in the city year in the red and black uniforms.” Gohmert agrees with Jones, and says these kinds of policies were “done in the 1930s,” a plain reference to Nazi Germany, “and it’s not the only place its been done. It has been done throughout history.” Jones says, “Mao did it,” referring to Communist China’s Mao Zedong. Gohmert agrees: “Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking of. This is the kind of the thing we got to stop. We got to get back to the roots, the basics.” Gohmert praises Jones for his rhetoric and accusations: “That shows how on top of things you are, Alex.” For his part, Jones effusively thanks Gohmert and reminds him that “you’re there fighting and we’re supporting you.” [Think Progress, 7/27/2009] Progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow says of Gohmert and Jones: “You know, the Democrats may be fighting it out about whether they’re going to be beholden to the insurance companies and whether there’s going to be a public option in health care reform. But when it comes to the Republicans, this is the kind of thing they are bringing to the table: Hitler, Mao, and secret plots to kill old people.” [MSNBC, 7/29/2009]
Richard Poplawski, the white supremacist who killed three police officers in a 2009 shooting spree (see April 4, 2009), has his trial date extended for the last time. His trial is now set for April 2011. “There will be no further continuances of this matter for any reason,” says Judge Jeffrey A. Manning. Poplawski’s lawyer, Lisa Middleman, says she needs further time to prepare her case because her client faces the death penalty, and a specialist is preparing Poplawski’s defense. Poplawski has asked Manning to remove another court-appointed attorney, Richard Narvin, from his defense team, saying “things have broken down” between Narvin and himself. Though Manning has refused the request, Narvin has also asked to withdraw. Prosecutor Mark Tranquilli says Narvin’s request may lead to more delays. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/29/2010] Manning had scheduled the trial for October 12, 2010, over objections from Middleman, who said in April 2010 that six months was not enough time to prepare her client’s defense. “Anybody who can’t prepare this case in six months shouldn’t have a law degree,” Manning retorted. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4/7/2010; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/29/2010]
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