Society

Man To Serve Up To 44 Years For Fatally Stabbing Police Dog

| by Tony Tran
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A Pennsylvania man will be serving the next 17 3/4 to 44 years behind bars after fatally stabbing a police dog named Rocco.

On Tuesday, an Allegheny County judge ruled that John Rush, 22, was guilty of several counts of assault.

In December, he was found guilt of 11 counts, including four counts of aggravated assault against law enforcement officers and a count of disarming a policemen.

His sentences have been stacked from several of these prior convictions. This practice is unusual but not uncommon, and is one employed by Judge Jill Rango. Rango was the one doling out Rush's sentence.

Rocco's handler, Officer Phil Lerza, was pleased with the sentence.

"I lost my partner from this, and he was also a family member," he said in his testimony.

Pittsburgh Police Union President Howard McQuillan agreed with Lerza, citing Rush's violent nature: "[Rush] assaulted police officers and killed a police dog. I think a lot of people forget [Lerza] was stabbed in the shoulder."

As such, Rush will serve a sentence for each of the victims involved. So that means 3 1/2 to 7 years for the murder of Rocco, 3 to 7 1/2 years each for stabbing Lerza as well as assaulting the other officers, and 2 1/2 to 7 years for trying to disarm an officer.

Rush's attorney, Aaron Sontz, did not offer an argument prior to sentencing.

Many took issue with the fact that Rush received a heavier sentence than most homicide and child abuse cases. However, Rango defended her position, citing Rush's "significant history of violence" and saying that he had been charged over 20 times with a record dating back to when he was a juvenile. 

Source: Trib Live Photo Credit: Trib Live