You may remember the story of Rocco, the German Shepherd Dog K-9 cop who was stabbed to death in January 2014 while apprehending a suspect.
In 2016, the Allegheny County judge handed John Rush, 22, also a Megan’s Law offender, a sentence of up to 45 years in jail, which was reportedly a longer sentence than often given in homicide and child-abuse cases.
Judge Jill Rangos stacked the sentences for Rush’s multiple convictions, which included killing Rocco; stabbing Rocco’s handler, Officer Phil Lerza; punching officers; and attempting to take an officer’s gun.
“I lost my partner from this, and he was also a family member,” Lerza told the judge.
For his sacrifice, the 8-year-old German Shepherd Dog was inducted in the Amen Corner Law Enforcement Hall of Fame last fall.
After the incident, the community paid its respects to the fallen officer with a full-service funeral and police procession. Since his death, a bill called Rocco’s Law was passed in Pennsylvania. Under the new law, killing a police dog would now be a second-degree felony (instead of a criminal offense) that would carry a sentence of to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Also, a fund was set up in his name. Officer Rocco K-9 Memorial Fund, to pay for protection vets for the K-9s.
Finally, a statue commemorating police dogs killed in the line of duty will be raised in Allegheny, according to Donna Best, commander in the sheriff’s office and president of the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial of Allegheny.
“They’re police officers just as much as we are,” she said.