Detectives George Satler and Timothy Rush had turned onto Smallman Street on their way to get gas when a man threw dirt and rocks in their direction.
After exiting their unmarked car and starting to approach the man, Detective Satler noticed him pull out a handgun, Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said yesterday.
With little warning and no apparent provocation, David A. Price then opened fire on the two plainclothes homicide detectives at around 10:15 p.m. Friday night outside the Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant in the Strip District, police said yesterday.
One of his first shots hit Detective Satler in the back, police said. The detectives took cover and returned fire, hitting the 30-year-old with seven shots in his chest, arm, stomach and back, Assistant Chief Bryant said.
Mr. Price, of Clearfield County, was transported from the corner of Smallman and 26th streets to UPMC Mercy Hospital, where he was in surgery before dying at 1:30 a.m. yesterday.
A bullet still buried in his back, Detective Satler was expected to be released from UPMC Presbyterian yesterday. He was in serious condition shortly after the shooting, but was upgraded yesterday to stable condition. Detective Rush was not injured.
Police had no explanation for Mr. Price's seemingly erratic behavior.
Police believe Mr. Price was drinking somewhere in the Strip District with a friend earlier Friday night. Assistant Chief Bryant said it is not yet known whether he was under the influence of any other substance.
"We are attempting to find out who that friend was and what happened that made him so enraged," Assistant Chief Bryant said.
Mr. Price's mother, Margaret Price, said yesterday that her son had "a serious alcohol problem."
Mrs. Price said that he had arrived in Pittsburgh earlier in the day by bus from DuBois, Clearfield County, where his father, Robert Price, had dropped him off.
The parents were supposed to drive to Pittsburgh today to pick up their son after he retrieved the last of his belongings from an apartment on Brownsville Road in Mount Oliver, where he had lived for five years until last fall. That's when he moved in to his parents' Penn Township home in Clearfield County.
"David was doing well and we had a rule when he moved back -- no drinking," Mrs. Price said. "He seemed to be in a good mood when he left for Pittburgh."
Police said David Price had a license to carry the .22-caliber Beretta he fired at police Friday night.
Assistant Chief Bryant said the flashing lights were off on the detectives' unmarked car and neither one had an opportunity to identify himself as a police officer before David Price started shooting.
"We don't believe he knew (they were police detectives) at that time," she said.
Patrons inside the restaurant said they heard about 15 shots fired. Bullet holes were visible in the rear and side windows of the detectives' car.
After getting fuel, the detectives had planned to visit Art's Tavern a few blocks away on Penn Avenue to investigate a homicide near there earlier in the day. Forty-year-old Angel Manguel died from a gunshot wound to his chest at around 8:30 p.m. Police said the two shootings were not related.
"One thing we know as police is you have to be on guard because anything can happen," Assistant Chief Bryant said.
As is standard procedure after a shooting involving police, both detectives have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the Allegheny County district attorney's office.
David Price's criminal record in Pennsylvania includes two minor incidents. He was charged with public drunkenness in May 2001 in McKees Rocks and paid a $111.50 fine. In September 2004, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in Pittsburgh and paid a $200 fine.
Mrs. Price said her son graduated from Curwensville High School as an honor student and later graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
He moved to Pittsburgh in search of work in the recording industry, his mother said, "but he moved back with us last fall because things had been going so horribly for him." She said he had been beaten and robbed several times in Mount Oliver, and he had trouble with his roommate.
After returning home this week, she said, he intended to start making plans to go to New Orleans to join his brother, Michael, who's working as a chef there.
Wade Malcolm can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1878.