The unemployed twenty-two year old man who killed three Pittsburgh police officers and wounded two others in a four-hour shootout on Saturday morning had been heavily influenced by extremist conspiracy theories prior to the incident.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Richard Poplawski was "convinced the nation was secretly controlled by a cabal that would eradicate freedom of speech, take away his guns and use the military to enslave the citizenry. ... He appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country."
Some of Poplawski's beliefs are fairly commonplace among conservatives. For example, fears that the Obama administration intends to somehow ban gun ownership have recently become a staple on such relatively mainstream outlets as Glenn Beck's program on Fox News.
However, many of his ideas appear to have come from more obscure sources. Poplawski's best friend, Edward Perkovic, told the Post-Gazette, "He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. ... 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."
Perkovic was apparently referring to the so-called "sovereign state movement," promoted by the Tenth Amendment Center, which presents secession as a reasonable response to federal gun laws and the power of the Federal Reserve and has recently encouraged legislators in a number of states to introduce resolutions reaffirming states rights.
The Post-Gazette also mentions the conspiracy theory website PrisonPlanet, run by radio talk show host Alex Jones, as a source for some of Poplawski's more off-the-wall notions.
Last fall, that site ran an article, "U.S. Troops In Homeland 'Crowd Control' Patrols From October 1st," which claimed that "U.S. troops returning from duty in Iraq will be carrying out homeland patrols in America from October 1st in complete violation of Posse Comitatus for the purposes of helping with 'civil unrest and crowd control' – which could include dealing with unruly Americans after a complete economic collapse."
Poplawski had also posted pictures of himself at Stormfront, a white supremacist website whose slogan is "white pride worldwide." The discussion of the shootings at Stormfront, which began with speculations that the gunman would turn out to be "some non-white" or "a jew," then turned to suspicions that the recent rash of shootings is a "setup" to push through gun control legislation, has become oddly muted since the revelation that Poplawski appears to be one of theirs.
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