Don Babbit, the man who was shot to death by police in Shaler, Pennsylvania, was a beloved math teacher at Penn Hills High School.
The officer-involved shooting was the culmination of a disturbing afternoon. Babbit was 49-years-old, and, judging from the comments former students have left on social media, he was a highly regarded educator. He’d been a teacher for at least a decade.
“I’m literally speechless. Penn Hills gained another angel ❤️,” wrote one woman on Twitter, echoing the thoughts of others.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Babbit’s Wife Said He Was Behaving ‘Erratically’ Before the Fatal Encounter With Police
The 911 center received a call “about a disturbance” at 3:01 p.m., according to Coleman McDonough, superintendent of Allegheny County Police.
In a news conference, McDonough said that the first officer arrived at the scene at 3:05 p.m. and met with wife of the subject (later identified as Babbit). She “advised the officer her husband was behaving erratically” and also indicated that he had access to weapons in the home, the police superintendent said.
Officers formed a hasty perimeter to make sure that no neighbors or children were in harm’s way. They asked Babbit to exit the home. According to McDonough, police used a public address system for several minutes.
Eventually, Babbit exited the home. He was “obviously and visibly armed with a handgun,” McDonough said. He said that Babbit “walked toward the officers waving the weapon,” officers gave repeated commands to him to drop it, and he then pointed the weapon at an officer, prompting three officers to fire at Babbit, striking him multiple times.
Babbit was treated at the scene by officers and taken to a hospital, where he died. The superintendent said there were previous reports from witnesses who said that “during the course of the afternoon, he was seen behaving erratically outside the residence prior to the 911 call.”
He said that there were “multiple shots fired by three officers. He was shot multiple times.” Authorities are still investigating how many shots were fired.
2. Fellow Teachers & Former Students Expressed Shock on Social Media
On social media, tributes flooded in for Don Babbit. A fellow teacher wrote on Facebook, “Wow…I have no words for tonight. Just sadness…” Another woman wrote on Facebook, “This is awful ? He was my teacher.”
Another former student wrote on Facebook, “Regardless of the circumstances this is absolutely heart breaking… He was the only teacher who could effectively make me understand math. He was my homeroom teacher in 7th grade and was a great person and teacher, he will be truly missed by many. Prayers for the family, friends and students.”
Another woman wrote, “Sooooo sad. He truly was one of the best. I guess you really never know the things people are facing in their personal lives ?”
A former student wrote: “He was my Math teacher back in high school. What a tragedy and he will surely be missed by everyone who had him as a teacher.” Another man added, “He was also my teacher and my colleague for four years. Babbit was a rock.”
Concurred another woman, “One of my favorite teachers in high school. He was always so kind and funny. This just doesn’t sound right.”
Wrote another on Twitter, “Though I had no classes with Mr. Babbit, he was always there to check the students’ I.D. cards. Every day, I would show him my card, and every day, we would exchange a smile. It’s such a tragedy that Penn Hills has lost such a kind soul. My most sincere prayers to his family.”
3. Babbit Wrote On Facebook That a Person’s Actions, Thoughts & Beliefs ‘Determine the Future’
On Facebook, Babbit’s profile picture shows him with two children and a dog. “Your actions, thoughts and beliefs of today determine the future of your tomorrow,” his profile read.
He said he was a “High School Math Teacher at Penn Hills Senior High School” who had studied at University of Pittsburgh, went to Penn Hills High School, lives in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, and was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He only had two Facebook friends. No other posts were visible. “Neighbors say he was a good man and that it was a great family. They’re still having a hard time wrapping their heads around what happened,” wrote journalist David Kaplan, of WTAE-TV, on Twitter.
4. School Officials Called Babbit a ‘Beloved’ Staff Member
School district officials had only positive things to say about Babbit as a teacher.
The Penn Hills School District posted a statement on its website. “It is with deep regret that the Penn Hills School District shares the unexpected passing of PHHS teacher Don Babbit earlier today…” it read.
“Don was a beloved member of our staff and had the distinct reputation among students, families, and colleagues as being an exceptional teacher. He will be missed.”
The school added: “Grief counselors will be on site in the PHHS cafeteria Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week from 10 am – 3 pm for any student, staff, or community member who would like to stop by. Local Reverend Jay Mitlo is also expected to be on site Wednesday and Friday at these same times to offer additional support.”
Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio told the Post-Gazette that Babbit was “a fantastic guy, never had any problems with him at all.”
5. Babbit Was Also a Golf Coach & People Recalled His Sense of Humor
In addition to working as a teacher, Don Babbit coached golf.
“Mr. Babbit was an incredible math teacher, golf coach, and colleague at Penn Hills,” Penn Hills Athletics wrote on Twitter.
“He will be remembered for his sense of humor and ability to connect with his students. The Penn Hills community is heart broken. Grief counselors are available 10-3 Weds-Fri in HS Cafe. #PHamily.”
Neighbors heard as many as a dozen shots, according to WPXI-TV.