Medical examiner's report reveals more details in K-9 stabbing, fatal shooting of suspect
February 1, 2016 6:33 PM
A Port Authority police search for clues after a K-9 was stabbed multiple times during a foot pursuit late this afternoon along the East Busway near Whitney Avenue in Wilkinsburg.
Flags fly at half staff over the Allegheny County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial along North Shore Drive early this morning.
A Port Authority police dog who died after being stabbed during a foot pursuit Sunday in Wilkinsburg is draped in an American flag and carried out of Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Ohio Township.
Pittsburgh Police K9 Unit
K-9 Officer Aren.
Bruce Kelley Jr., left, and Bruce Kelley Sr.
The K-9 draped in an American flag is carried out of Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center by fellow Port Authority officers.
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
More details are emerging a day after police shot and killed a man in Wilkinsburg after they said he stabbed a Port Authority police dog to death.
Bruce Kelley Jr., 37, was pronounced dead at the scene of the incident on Whitney Avenue.
The K-9 officer, Aren, was a 5-year-old German shepherd who worked patrol and explosives. He had been on the job for four years, said Chief Matt Porter of Port Authority police.
According to superintendent Charles Moffatt of Allegheny County police, the incident was first called in to 911 dispatch at 3:37 p.m. Sunday after two Port Authority officers on walking patrol — Emily Hampy and another officer named Adams — were involved in an altercation with two men, later identified as Kelley and his father, 60-year-old Bruce Tyrone Kelley, whom they found drinking in a gazebo at Wood Street near Hamnett Place Station and the East Busway.
When the officers confronted the men, Bruce Kelley Jr. became agitated, said Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie, and physically fought with one officer, who was taken to an area hospital with cuts on his hands and to have X-rays taken of his arm.
“It was a knock-down, drag-out,” Chief Porter said of the fight.
During the police scuffle, Kelley’s father, Bruce Tyrone Kelley, struck one officer in the face, according to the criminal complaint. The officer pepper sprayed him and knocked him to the ground, but a few minutes later he tried to approach the officers while they were attempting to arrest his son. He was sprayed again while his son managed to run from the officers.
After the initial incident, Port Authority officers requested backup as they searched for the two men. Among the responding officers were K-9 team Brian O’Malley and Aren.
Wilkinsburg Councilwoman Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson, who lives near the incident, said she heard a Port Authority police officer telling residents to make sure their children were inside. When Ms. McCarthy-Johnson asked the officer what was going on, he told her that a man was walking around with a knife. By this point, more officers had joined the pursuit.
According to Ms. McCarthy-Johnson, six officers followed Bruce Kelley Jr., leaving a short distance between themselves and the suspect while attempting to get him to put down the knife.
By the time Kelley got to a dead-end at Whitney Avenue refused their repeated commands to stop and drop the knife.
Seventeen minutes after the first call, at least two officers tried to incapacitate Kelley with a stun gun, Mr. Moffatt said. Because Kelley was wearing a thick coat, the shock device had no effect. Three or four more officers deployed their stun guns, as well, the superintendent said, and when those failed, Officer O’Malley released Aren.
“He had a knife, and he stabbed the dog,” Mr. Moffatt said. “The dog went down, and the officers shot and killed the man.”
He could not say what caused the officers to deploy their stun guns when they did and said the investigation was ongoing.
“You release the dog when you think it’s proper to release the dog to stop this person from doing what he or she is going to do,” Mr. Moffatt said.
At least two police officers fired their guns, and they are on administrative leave pending the investigation, Chief Porter said.
The Allegheny County district attorney’s office will determine whether it was a justified use of force.
Kelley’s father was detained near the scene. He faces charges of aggravated assault, obstructing administration of law enforcement, resisting arrest and other offenses. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 11 before District Judge Kim Marie Hoots in Wilkinsburg.
Port Authority officers raced Aren to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Ohio Township immediately after the stabbing, and a few K-9 handlers gathered there. Aren was pronounced dead about 4:30 p.m. Later, dozens of officers gathered at the animal hospital as a flag-draped casket was removed carrying the dog's body.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office said Aren’s official cause of death was a stab wound to the mouth.
“We’re definitely going to show the K-9 officer the respect that’s due to him,” Chief Porter said.
Mr. Moffatt said a necropsy will be performed to determine the extent of Aren’s injuries. The dog was not wearing a ballistic vest, Chief Porter said.
“It’s a horrible thing. He’s a member of that officer’s family,” Chief Porter said. “He’s a member of the law enforcement family. It’s a difficult time right now.”
“They depend on each other every day of their life,” Mr. Moffatt said.
Aren’s death came two years and one day after Pittsburgh police K-9 Rocco died on Jan. 30, 2014, at the same veterinary hospital. Rocco, too, had been stabbed in the line of duty after his handler, Officer Phil Lerza, sent him into the basement of a home in Lawrenceville to flush out a man who had fled from police.
A sheriff’s deputy spotted John Rush, a sex offender wanted on a bench warrant, and Rush lunged toward his gun and struck him in the face. The suspect then fled into the basement of a home on Butler Street. Officer Lerza warned Rush that he would send in the dog, but Rush refused to come out, and when Rocco went in, Rush lunged at him, swinging the knife at the dog.
Rocco survived the initial attack but died two days later.
Rush was sentenced to serve at least 17 years 9 months — and up to 44 years in prison — for the variety of counts for which he was convicted, including killing a police animal, disarming a law enforcement officer and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
Rocco’s death led local legislators to introduce legislation to stiffen the penalties for people accused of harming or killing police animals, and the sentence went from having a maximum prison term of seven years up to 10.
For Kelley, the end of his life marked the last in a 19-year string of encounters with law enforcement.
In 1997, at age 18, he was arrested for stealing a black hat from a J.C. Penney store in Washington, Pa. He was only fined in that incident, but the seriousness of the incidents increased.
Two years later, he got in more serious trouble when four juvenile girls accused him of handing them coin-shaped tokens decorated with pictures of naked women, as well as what police described as "magic playing cards with his name and phone number" on them. The girls said he tried to touch and hug them, and asked them to "pinkie swear" that they wouldn't tell anyone. He was charged with corruption of minors and sentenced to six to 23 months in jail.
His next run-in with local law enforcement, in 2006, came when state police stopped him for suspicious behavior in Canton Township, near Washington, and found a knife and marijuana on his person, according to a police affidavit. He was sentenced to 30 days of probation. Two years later, he was arrested for trespassing into a house in Washington, for which he was sentenced to four to 18 months in jail. In 2009, he was charged with burglary in Braddock, but was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser crime of receiving stolen property.
Another burglary charge, in which police said he kicked in the door of Trapazano's Tuxedos in Washington on a March night in 2011, and then fled, led to a 15 to 30 month prison sentence. The judge also ordered a "drug and alcohol evaluation as well as a mental health assessment." In August 2012, he was transferred to Renewal, Inc., Downtown, where he was to undergo "inpatient alcohol and other drug with dual diagnosis" treatment, according to court papers. Dual diagnosis refers to substance abuse and a mental health diagnosis.
In October 2012 and again in 2014, he was twice arrested for stealing air conditioners and attempting to sell them for scrap.
In October 2014, Washington police arrested him for prowling, and he identified himself as "Tommy Gun" before fleeing and then "trying to fight with officers" while they handcuffed him. For that, Washington County Judge John F. DiSalle gave him six months probation.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com. Rich Lord contributed.
CORRECTION: A version of this story once included a headline with erroneous information. The medical examiner’s office determined that there was evidence of a stun gun being deployed on Bruce Kelley Jr.