PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The family of the fallen Pittsburgh Police K-9 officer’s handler says the compassion the city has shown throughout this difficult time is overwhelming.
Rocco, the 8-year-old German Shepherd, lost his battle to survive Thursday night.
He’d gone through a two-day fight, enduring surgeries and blood transfusions after he was stabbed in the line of duty.
Family members say the bond Rocco and his handler had was a special one, but the outpouring of support from the city and the nation has made the loss a little easier.
Pittsburgh Police Officer Phil Lerza’s aunt says it didn’t take long for messages of love and support to start pouring in after Rocco’s passing.
Joy Gezo says her nephew knows the sacrifice Rocco made for him Tuesday when fugitive John Rush came at the officers swinging a knife.
Rush, a convicted sex offender, punctured Rocco’s spine and kidney before stabbing Officer Lerza in his shoulder and injuring three other officers.
Rocco and Officer Lerza had a unique bond. They’d been together since 2008 and were partners.
“They had looks,” Gezo said. “I would see them look at each other and they communicated that way. They didn’t even have to speak.”
On Thursday night after Rocco suddenly took a turn for the worse, Officer Lerza was there right next to his partner’s side to give one final look, saying thank you and goodbye.
“They view him as a hero and are deeply indebted to him, and I think Phil feels that,” Gezo said.