Mr. Perkovic and other former classmates said they were surprised by this morning's events. Mr. Perkovic said Mr. Poplawski was opposed to "Zionist propaganda" and was fearful that his right to own weapons would be taken away but he wasn't a member of an organized group or militia.
"He always said that if someone tried to take his weapons away he would do what his forefathers told him to do and defend himself."
Another friend, Aaron Vire, 23, said he'd helped Mr. Poplawski and Mr. Perkovic with a radio show they'd broadcast on the Internet, discussing "politics, girls and life."
Mr. Poplawski had supported Republican candidate John McCain in the presidential election and had "very spirited debates" about Democratic candidate Barack Obama, Mr. Vire said. Mr. Poplawski was opposed to Mr. Obama's election, which he thought would result in the loss of his rights, Mr. Vire said.
"He wasn't a racist but thought some of his amendments were overlooked," Mr. Vire said. Even though Mr. Vire is black and Mr. Poplawski is white, the debates over President Obama did not hurt their friendship, he said.
Mr. Poplawski told him he bought his guns "because he felt the quality of life was being diminished," Mr. Vire said.
"He said he'll be ready if there's ever an invasion of the United States and that he had stockpiled foods and guns for that eventuality."
Dave Neiwert already has the goods on how Mr. Poplawski was probably stoked by right-wing extreme paranoia about Obama, liberals, and guns. Today, three Pittsburgh officers died because of it. But it's worth noting the usual right-wing intersection between anti-state violence and anti-Semitic attitudes.
Believe me, I know enough to worry about left-wing anti-Semitism. But in this country, it remains right-wing elements which are most likely to provoke and implement violence against me and my family. When Beck, Limbaugh, et al launch their rants and ratings calling for violence and insurrection, that gets pointed directly at me, because I'm contained on the list of legitimate targets by the folks with the gun. And it's something I keep in mind about anyone who supports or apologizes for these inflammatory thugs.