By Annette Dashofy
It’s been a very dark week in Pittsburgh. On Saturday morning, those of us who thought we were part of a relatively safe city learned there is no such thing.
In case you somehow managed to miss the news, three Pittsburgh Police officers were gunned down in the quiet neighborhood of Stanton Heights while responding to a domestic dispute call. The gunman, aware that his mother had phoned the police, armed himself with an AK-47, a long rifle, and a handgun and opened fire as the officers entered the house. A third officer who lived nearby and was returning home from his shift, came to their aid and was also shot and killed.
I don’t live in the city, but I spend a lot of time there. Since taking the Citizens’ Police Academy, I have felt a strong bond with the Pittsburgh Police. When I watched the news on Saturday, I felt sick. Heartbroken.
There have been mixed reports on one detail that struck a nerve and put me into a cold sweat. When the mother called 911 to ask the police to come to home and remove her son, the dispatcher asked her if there were guns in the house. At first, the report was she responded there were not. A later conflicting report stated that she did say her son had weapons inside. Either way, there’s some doubt as to whether the responding officers knew.
The day I went on my ride-along, one of our calls was for a domestic dispute. The mother wanted the officer to talk to her son and ask him to leave. The officer I was with asked her if there were weapons in the house.
She said there were not.
At the time, a little voice (call it fear, call it self-preservation) in my head wondered whether she should be believed. Would a mother, even one who was afraid of her son and wanted him gone, admit that he had guns?
So, I was there, entering an apartment right behind a Pittsburgh Police officer during a mother/son domestic dispute. Thankfully, in our case, the end results were much more peaceful.
But these brave men and women never know what they’re going to face. Times are tough. People are losing their jobs. Stress is at an all time high. All across the country, madness ensues.
Getting back to Pittsburgh…
We’ve never ever lost three officers in one day before. This is all horribly new to us. Many of us want to do something to show our support and our grief. Memorials have been set up and continue to grow at Police Headquarters, at the Zone 5 station, and even in front of that house in Stanton Heights. However a lot of us are at a loss as to what we can do.
On Monday, I received a phone call asking if I would be free to volunteer to help with color coding cars for the families for the memorial service tomorrow. As a Citizens’ Police Academy Alumni, I can do something that a police officer might ordinarily be doing, freeing that officer so he can attend the services of his fallen comrades. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so honored. Or humbled. It’s a miniscule thing, this offering of my time for a few hours, but it lets me feel that I’m contributing in some small way.
I don’t think any of my fellow CPA grads expected to be called into duty in quite this way. I hope we never have to do it again.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Officers Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle, and Eric Kelly. And to all the men and women in blue across this nation, who put their lives in harm’s way each and every day. You are all heroes.