Wounded Pittsburgh Police Dog Dies

From The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Michael Hasch and Margaret Harding, January 30, 2014

The Pittsburgh police dog stabbed in an altercation has died, police said Thursday.

Police confirmed the death at about 6:50 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty Emergency Center in Ohio Township.

Throughout the day, updates indicated Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, was improving. His condition at one point was upgraded to stable, but by 5:30 p.m. about two dozen officers were at the clinic and some were crying outside.

Pittsburgh Police provided this photo of K-9 officer Rocco. Police said a suspect stabbed Rocco in the back during an incident Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014.

Police said John L. Rush, 21, of Stowe attacked Rocco with a pocket knife, stabbed his handler, Officer Philip Lerza, in the shoulder, and hurt two other officers when they struggled to apprehend him in the basement of a Lawrenceville building Tuesday night. Allegheny County Sheriff’s deputies were seeking Rush on bench warrants.

The stabbing tore the dog’s back muscles, damaged a bone in his spine and lacerated his kidney. Doctors performed two surgeries, removed the kidney and replaced at least five liters of Rocco’s blood.

Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement, “He served this city faithfully and paid the ultimate price in the line of duty in service of the residents of our City. His brave actions very possibly spared the lives of two other officers.”

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said the police bureau is not soliciting money for the medical care of Rocco, and the city will pay for his medical expenses. In a news release sent Wednesday night, she said the Fraternal Order of Police set up a medical fund at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union.

Credit Union CEO Karen Janoski said she worked with the FOP to set up the fund in response to calls.

“So many people have called,” Janoski said. “Our phone has been ringing off the hook this morning. All we’re trying to do is make sure the dog has the best care.”

Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said the money collected by the credit union could be donated to the city to off-set the cost of Rocco’s medical treatment.

“It’s an avenue for people who want to support,” LaPorte said.

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