Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Pittsburgh cop killer, the radio "hit list," and the right-wing media

The Pittsburgh cop killer, the radio "hit list," and the right-wing media

 

Nearly two years before the cold-blooded killing of three Pittsburgh police officers that sent shockwaves across the nation, the accused cop-killer Richard Poplawski recorded an Internet radio show in which he listed people that he wanted to kill -- including "in a random measure a couple of members of the Pittsburgh police."

Poplawski -- along with his best-friend Eddie Perkovic -- recorded the bizarre rant in May 2007 for a crude-obscenity-laden Internet radio broadcast called "The Eddie and P.O. Show". A huge fan of radio shock jocks from  "The Opie and Anthony Show" to later more political hosts like Glenn Beck, Poplawski launched his own radio tirade with praise for the Virginia Tech massacre that had taken place that spring -- "Thirty-three people dead, I'm fairly impressed by that" -- before this:

I want to kill my ex-girlfriend, her mother, her pets, my father, people I don't like, and in a random measure a couple of members of the Pittsburgh police.

23 months later, Poplawski -- a then-unemployed 22-year-old fan of white supremacist Web sites and right-wing talk radio -- did exactly that. On April 4, 2009, when police were called to his house in the middle-class Stanton Heights neighborhood in a domestic quarrel with his mother over a urinating dog, Poplawski allegedly shot and killed the first two officers who responded, then he gunned down a third cop who lived in the neighborhood and responded to the gunfire. He is awaiting trial in 2011.

Earlier this year, Pittsburgh media reported that law enforcement, in its ongoing pre-trial probe of the killings, had learned of and tracked down a copy of the so-called Poplawski "hit list," but what it actually said has not been revealed -- until now.

In January, I spent time in Pittsburgh reporting on the Poplawski case for my new book -- The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama. That included a long interview with Perkovic -- who was under house arrest for drunk driving and related charges at the time -- during which he played for me a CD copy of the radio show. I have embedded the relevant soundbites -- a very poor quality audio that is a recording of the recording -- at the bottom of the post.

The complete transcript of the intro to the Internet radio show, over blaring heavy metal music -- the start of a roughly 10-minute program, filled with obscenties and built around the mistaken idea that posters plastered near Perkovic's home reading "Eternal Happiness Flying Through the Sky" was a Muslim tribute to 9/11 (in fact it was a public art project) -- is as follows:

Pull the trigger...Pull the trigger...All I have to do is reach the trigger and, Pow!...I plead not guilty...I plead not guilty...I plead not guilty...thirty-three dead, I'm fairly impressed by that....thrity-three people dead, I'm fairly impressed by that...thirty-three people dead, I'm fairly impressed by that....This is f------ doomsday status.

I want to kill my ex-girlfriend, her mother, her pets, my father, people I don't like, and in a random measure a couple of members of the Pittsburgh police.

Poplawski's bizarre rant is another look into the muddled mind of a once-troubled kid who grew into aimless and unemployed young adult who in the final months before the triple cop-killing was increasingly drawn into a world of right-wing conspiracy theories, including the ideas that law officers like the ones who came to his house that April morning might be confiscating guns on behalf of the Obama administration or taking people to so-called "FEMA camps" where Americans would be detained.

Perkovic -- also a radio buff who spoke of his efforts to get a job with XM Satellite Radio -- said that he and his best-friend Poplawski, with their so-called "pirate" radio show on the Internet, were shock-jock wannabes who started out as fanatical fans of the more non-political shock jocks Opie and Anthony, who were once fired for a stunt encouraging people to have sex in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Poplawski, booted from high school and then Marine boot camp and hit with an order of protection from his ex-girlfriend, went to Florida for a time but returned to Pittsburgh by 2008 and -- unable to hold down or find a job -- spent increasing time on a white supremacist Web site called Stormfront.org and increasingly became a fan of political talk radio and conspiracies. 

"Rich, like myself, loved Glenn Beck," Perkovic told me, and in the early months of 2009 the issues that animated Poplawski were increasingly the ones  that Beck was talking about he launched his show that January on the Fox News Channel. (The FNC host later confessed: "When we were starting the TV show there are things that I did that I wouldn’t do now because I had to be more of an entertainer.”)

Most famously, Poplawski embraced discussions by Beck in March 2009 about the possibility of FEMA concentration camps -- and the future accused cop-killer even posted a video online of Beck discussing FEMA with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. But Poplawski also increasingly talked to friends and family members about the possible collapse of the U.S. monetary system and the need to stockpile food and even toilet paper for a possible socital collapse -- also ideas featured on Beck's program and on more fringe right-wing media.

Later in an affadavit, Poplawski's mother claimed that her son "only liked police when they were not curtailing his constitutional rights, which he was determined to protect."

By then, police officers Eric Guy Kelly, Stephen Mayhle, and Paul Sciullo II were already dead -- victims of a bogus war they did not even know they were fighting.



About this blog

Will Bunch
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected