Man arraigned on charges he stabbed Pittsburgh police dog that later died



The man accused of fatally stabbing a Pittsburgh police dog was arraigned this morning and a judge set his bail at $1 million.

John Rush, 21, who previously lived in McKees Rocks but had recently been homeless, appeared before District Judge James Motznik about 11:30 a.m. via a video hook-up from the Allegheny County Jail.

Rush, who also was wanted on numerous other warrants, was arraigned this morning on charges that he stabbed Pittsburgh police canine Rocco. The 8-year-old German Shepherd died Thursday night after he contracted pneumonia and experienced additional bleeding from a stab wound that veterinarians unsuccessfully attempted to correct with numerous surgeries.

Rush faces felony charges of abusing a police animal, disarming a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault, burglary and misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, resisting arrest and possessing instruments of a crime.

Members of the Allegheny County sheriff’s office were searching for Rush, a convicted sex offender, on a bench warrant signed earlier this month when they spotted him carrying several bags while walking Tuesday night on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Deputy John Herb asked Rush for his name and identification and Rush lunged toward the deputy’s gun then began hitting him in the face, the complaint says.

The deputy tried to stop him by using a Taser, but Rush ran into the basement of a home in the 3700 block of Butler Street, police said.

Rocco and Officer Philip Lerza, his handler, were among those who responded to a call for a suspicious man. Officer Lerza stood by the doorway of the basement and shouted three times, “Pittsburgh Police K-9,” and warned the man to “sound off” or the dog would come for him, police wrote.

Police said Rush “lunged out from near a pillar and attacked K-9 Rocco,” swinging the knife about while the dog attempted to bite his upper torso and arm.

Rush, police said, also punched Officer Daniel Nowak, who told him he was under arrest, and hit Officer John Baker in the head several times. Officer Lerza sustained a puncture wound to the back and was treated at UPMC Mercy. A fourth officer sustained a knee injury.

Rush already was being held without bail on the bench warrant.


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.

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