Pennsylvania man guilty in stabbing death of police dog

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 15, 2014 5:03 PM

By Elizabeth Daley

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania man was found guilty on Monday in the killing of a German Shepherd police dog whose death inspired "Rocco's Law," strengthening penalties for such crimes, court officials said.

A Pittsburg jury found John Rush, 22, guilty of 11 charges including felony aggravated assault, torture of a police animal and disarming an officer in the confrontation and killing of 8-year-old K-9 cop "Rocco," an Allegheny County Court official said.

Rush encountered Rocco in a building basement in January, while he was attempting hide from Pittsburg police who sought to arrest him for outstanding warrants, parole violation and failure to register as a sex offender, police said.

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

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

During his trial, Rush testified that he stabbed the dog in self defense. His attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

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 and includes a $25,000 fine.

Hundreds of people attended Rocco's funeral and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto ordered city flags held at half mast in his honor. 

Funds raised after Rocco's death have been used to purchase protective vests for 13 Pittsburgh police dogs, according to local media reports.

Rush will be sentenced under the old law, and it was not immediately clear what maximum sentence he faces. His court date has not been set.

(Editing by Laila Kearney)