One was a 14-year veteran of the Pittsburgh police; the other two were relative newcomers, each with two years on the force.
Two of them left behind wives and daughters; the other was engaged to be married.
What the three officers who were slain yesterday in Stanton Heights shared, colleagues and friends said yesterday, was their devotion to police work.
The fallen officers were identified yesterday as Eric Kelly, 41, a 14-year veteran; and Paul Sciullo II, 37, and Stephen J. Mayhle, 29, each with two years on the force.
"They were like my kids," said Cmdr. Larry Ross of the city's Zone 5 police station, where all three officers worked.
For three years in the 1990s, Detective Robert Pires patrolled the some of the city's toughest neighborhoods in the East End with Officer Kelly.
"He always had your back," Detective Pires said. "If you were doing a call with Kelly you didn't have to worry. He knew what to do, what to say. With Kelly it came natural."
Detective Pires said he was not surprised to learn that his former partner responded yesterday morning to a call for a domestic dispute even though he was off duty.
Officer Kelly had just finished his 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift. He was on his way to his Stanton Heights home before heading off to a 10 a.m. private security detail when he heard the call over his police radio.
"Instead of making a right he made a left, and he drove back up," Detective Pires said. "Once he got there, it was an ambush. There was nothing anybody could have done."
"He was done for the day and he was heading home in his personal vehicle. He heard the call and he stopped," said Sgt. Michael LaPorte, who worked alongside Officer Kelly in the East End.
Detective Pires said Officer Kelly grew up in Garfield. He served in the Marines and entered the police academy in January 1995.
Two years later, the officer known as "E" drew a plum assignment: working plainclothes in Zone 5. It was a perfect match.
"He knew the streets because he grew up in the streets," Detective Pires said. "Eric was a guy who knew everybody. He got along with people, respected people. He knew how to talk to people."
He recalled that he and Officer Kelly once encountered another officer running after a suspect in Homewood. Officer Kelly got out and gave chase. He passed his colleague and made the arrest.
To this day, Detective Pires said, the other officer "said all he saw was a streak of wind going by him."
Officer Kelly was injured in a car accident around 1999 and took time off to recuperate. When he returned, he received an Officer of the Month award in January 2001.
For several years, Officer Kelly worked at Zone 3 on the South Side, walking a beat along the neighborhood's crowded strip of bars and restaurants. He made favorable impressions there, too.
"He was very quiet, reserved, but he had a sly sense of humor," said Lt. Timothy O'Connor, Officer Kelly's supervisor there. "He was just a dependable guy out on the street."
Detective Pires said Officer Kelly loved working the night shift. He also loved working in Zone 5, so much so that last year he requested a transfer back to the East End. It was granted, and Officer Kelly returned in January.
"It's his community. He knew the people. He knew the area. He loved working with the people in that area, in that community. He always helped the people in that area. And he felt he was a better cop in that area," Detective Pires said.
Officer Kelly is survived by his wife, Marena; daughters Tameka, 22, Autumn, 16, and Janelle, 11; his mother, Francis Kelly; and a sister, Danyelle.
Officer Mayhle and his wife, Shandra, recently bought a home on Norwich Avenue in Brookline, where they moved with daughters Jennifer, 6, and Brooklynn, 3.
"My husband is employed by the Pittsburgh City Police. He loves what he does!" Mrs. Mayhle wrote on her Internet blog, which was decorated with pictures of her daughters and husband.
Before moving to Brookline, the couple resided in the Parklane Plaza high-rise apartment building on Bunkerhill Street in Highland Park.
A doorman there, Steve Costanzo, recalled Officer Mayhle as "a very quiet man, with a very nice wife and two adorable little girls."
Officer Mayhle typically worked the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift and often would arrive home saying "What a quiet night, what a quiet night," Mr. Costanzo recalled.
"There's just no words," he said of learning about Officer Mayhle's death yesterday. "It's a shock."
Officer Mayhle also is survived by his parents, Ronald and Marjorie; and brothers Jeffrey and Jamie, Pittsburgh police said.
Officer Sciullo grew up in Bloomfield, attended the former St. Joseph School and excelled in hockey and golf at Central Catholic High School.
Despite being relatively small, he stood out on the ice, making all-star teams in his junior and senior seasons and going on to play hockey at Duquesne University.
"He was one of the tiniest kids we had as a freshman. But he had the ability to score," said Kevin Zielmanski, a teammate and close friend who went on to coach hockey at Central Catholic and, currently, at Bishop Canevin High School.
He said Officer Sciullo also enjoyed golf and after college took a stab at playing professional golf. In 1993, while playing for Duquesne, he was medalist in a tournament hosted by St. Bonaventure University, shooting a 72.
"He liked to play golf and be with friends. He was always joking and having fun. He was a good guy, just a guy from the neighborhood.
"Obviously by choosing to be a police officer he was someone who wanted to help," Mr. Zielmanski said. "He told me he really enjoyed being an officer. He didn't want a desk job. He enjoyed being out in the patrol car."
Officers Sciullo and Mayhle were "young, energetic," said Sgt. Eric Holmes, a supervisor at Zone 5.
"They were always early, ready to start their shift," said Sgt. Holmes, who also taught both officers in an ethics class at the city's police academy. "They just loved being cops."
Staff writer Jerome L. Sherman contributed to this report. Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962. Jon Schmitz can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1868.