PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh K-9 officer stabbed during an arrest in Lawrenceville last week was laid to rest with full honors Friday.
The funeral service at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland began after a procession through the city of Pittsburgh, where hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their respects for officer Rocco.
A retired K-9 officer led the procession into the auditorium with bagpipes.
Tributes of remembrance were presented by PBP K-9 Officers. Prayers were rendered by members of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chaplaincy Corps, The Lord’s Prayer was sung by a Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officer and the Presentation of the Colors was presented to Rocco’s family.
In response to the community’s outpouring support, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced the creation of The Officer Rocco K-9 Memorial Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.
All proceeds of the Fund will be used exclusively for the benefit of the K-9 Unit of the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, for investments in K-9 Officers such as equipment, protective vests, training and facilities.
The Mayor encouraged the Fraternal Order of Police, the Pittsburgh Police Credit Union and any other individuals, agencies and organizations collecting funds in honor of Officer Rocco, to forward all collections to the Fund:
Officer Rocco K-9 Memorial Fund
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Five PPG Place, Suite 250
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Online donations may be made HERE.
Rocco and his handler, Officer Philip Lerza, were among several officers who responded to a report of a suspicious man lurking near a building, only to encounter John Lewis Rush, 21, who, unbeknownst to police, was armed with a 6-inch folding knife when he dashed into the basement of a home.
According to a criminal complaint filed, Lerza warned Rush to shout an answer to police or face the dog. Instead, Rush lunged out from near a pillar and attacked K-9 Rocco, police said.
The dog was stabbed in the back, damaging muscles and a spinal bone and lacerating a kidney.
The dog survived surgery and appeared to be recovering from blood loss and other injuries when he developed pneumonia. As Rocco fought, Lerza stayed by the dog's side.
Rocco died last Thursday evening. The animal succumbed to his wounds and was not euthanized, police said.
Following Rocco's death, an emotional group of K-9 handlers and their K-9 officers, along with other police officers, lined the walkway outside of the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center. Bagpipes played as Rocco's body was carried out of the hospital under an American flag.