Pennsylvania man accused of killing police dog goes on trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2014 1:16 PM

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Monday for a Pennsylvania man accused of killing a police dog, a case that inspired the state's "Rocco's Law" that toughened penalties for such crimes.

John Lewis Rush, 22, is accused of fatally stabbing Rocco, an 8-year-old German Shepherd, while Pittsburgh police were trying to arrest him in January on outstanding warrants, parole violation and failure to register as a sex offender.

Cornered in a building basement, Rush allegedly jumped out from behind a pillar and stabbed the dog before he was subdued and arrested, police said.

The dog died two days later at a veterinary clinic of spinal and kidney injuries, according to officials.

Hundreds of people attended its funeral, according to local media accounts.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed "Rocco's Law" in July. It increases penalties for killing a police animal to 10 years in prison from seven years and includes a $25,000 fine.

Rush has been charged with aggravated assault, abusing a police animal, resisting arrest, cruelty to animals and other charges.

If convicted in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, he will sentenced by Judge Jill Rangos under the old law.

His outstanding warrants for robbery, aggravated assault and robbery stemmed from a 2013 home invasion in Pittsburgh, state judicial records showed.

He also was wanted for violation of probation and parole stemming from a 2012 conviction for statutory sexual assault of an underage girl and failure to register as a sex offender.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)