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Son convicted of killing 3 officers responding to mother's 911 call

A Pennsylvania man was found guilty Saturday in the 2009 killings of three Pittsburgh police officers who responded to his mother's 911 call about an escalating argument with her son.

The jury deliberated for slightly more than three hours before returning the verdict against Richard Poplawski, 24. He was found guilty on all 28 counts, including first-degree murder in each killing, the three most serious charges.

He was convicted of gunning down Officers Paul Sciullo II, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly at his home in April 2009.

About 50 Pittsburgh police officers lined the hallway outside Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning's courtroom and burst into applause when Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli emerged.

Poplawski did not comment as he was taken from the courtroom, and the judge ordered his mother, Margaret, removed after she stood up. Manning said he was concerned she was about to create an outburst and ordered sheriff's deputies to remove her as a precaution.

The trial now enters a penalty phase in which the jury will hear evidence about the defendant's mental state, background and other factors before determining if Poplawski gets the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Allegheny County prosecutors had said a mountain of evidence provided by 41 witnesses and 500 exhibits pointed conclusively to Poplawski as the gunman.

In court Friday, Deputy Sheriff Troy Garrett and city police Detective James R. Smith testified that Poplawski confessed while shackled to a hospital bed the day after the slayings. At least one shot during the gunfight hit Poplawski's bulletproof vest, according to testimony.

Garrett said Poplawski choked up and said he was sorry about shooting the officers. Poplawski said he knew the officers had families and that "up until today he was no murderer," Garrett testified.

"He said it all just happened so fast," Garrett said. "He just didn't know what happened."

But Poplawski's attorney tried to convince the jury that reasonable doubt remains about whether Poplawski's mother was involved -- even though she has never been accused of a crime in the shootings. Prosecutors say no evidence suggests she had a role in the crimes.

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