Rocco's funeral to begin at 11 a.m. today

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Pittsburgh police this morning will hold a funeral for Rocco, the police dog who died last week after he was stabbed while trying to apprehend a suspect.

Marked K-9 cars will leave the Pittsburgh police canine training academy in Highland Park at 10 a.m. and arrive at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland about 10:15 a.m., according to a news release from bureau spokeswoman Diane Richard.

K-9 officers and their partners will line up on the steps outside the hall for a procession that will begin about 10:50 a.m. and lead up to the funeral at 11 a.m.

A retired canine officer will lead the procession while bagpipes play, Ms. Richard said. Members of the Pittsburgh police bureau's K-9 unit will present tributes to the 8-year-old German shepherd, who died Jan. 30, and the bureau's chaplaincy corps will read prayers.

A Pittsburgh officer will sing the "The Lord's Prayer," and colors will be presented to the family of the dog's handler, Officer Philip Lerza. At the end of the ceremony, the dog's cremated remains will be returned to the Lerza family.

Seating inside will be open to the public, Ms. Richard said, but first preference will be given to law enforcement officers and public officials.

Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement Thursday that he will not be able to attend because of "long-standing commitment to a loved one," but presented a city flag to the Lerza family that night.

"Not every dog proves a perfect match for the job of protecting others," he said. "The combination of control and courage needed in a canine officer are not found in every dog. But Rocco measured up in every way."

Also Thursday, Ms. Richard announced several road closures related to the service:

Bigelow Boulevard will be closed between Forbes and Fifth avenues in Oakland for law enforcement parking. The funeral procession will park on Bigelow between O'Hara Street and Fifth Avenue.

Beginning about 10 a.m., there will be rolling road closures as police head from their staging point near the southbound lanes of Washington Boulevard between the Allegheny River and Frankstown Avenue, take Frankstown Avenue toward Fifth Avenue, and then proceed from Fifth Avenue into Oakland and up Bouquet Street next to the memorial hall. Officers will close the roads as the police cars pass through in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, Ms. Richard said.

The parking garage beneath Soldiers & Sailors will be closed between 10 and 11 a.m., with the University Place side being open only to leaseholders, Ms. Richard said.

Rocco died after he underwent numerous surgeries for a stab wound. Police have said John Rush, a 21-year-old homeless man formerly of McKees Rocks, stabbed the dog while it attempted to help Pittsburgh officers and a deputy from the Allegheny County sheriff's office arrest him. Several officers were injured in the scuffle.

-- By Liz Navratil

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