Police dog Rocco's funeral to be open to public

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An outpouring of grief and support has spurred the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to open the funeral for their slain police dog, Rocco, to the public.

The service will be held Friday at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland. Doors will open at 10 a.m. and the service is expected to last from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Priority seating will be given to law enforcement officers and their families.

Rocco's handler, Officer Phil Lerza, originally asked that the funeral be closed to the public but changed his mind after numerous calls and emails and an outpouring of support from the public. "The tremendous show of support has deeply touched the Lerza family and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police," said police in a press release.

The K-9 officer died Thursday after he was stabbed Tuesday night in Lawrenceville while trying to apprehend fugitive John Lewis Rush.

The 8-year-old German shepherd's body will be cremated, said police spokeswoman Diane Richards. Cameras will not be permitted at the service.

Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.

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