A man could spend the next 44 years behind bars after taking the life of an animal whose job was to protect and serve.
Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd serving the Pittsburgh Police Department, died after being stabbed by John Rush in 2014. During an altercation with police, Rush injured four officers, including Rocco's hander, Officer Phil Lerza, who was stabbed in the shoulder.
In December, Rush was convicted of 11 counts stemming from the incident, but it was the murder of Rocco that resonated the most with the community.
Rocco, whose career began after he was rescued from the Czech Republic, had been an instrumental in fighting crime since joining the force in 2010.
According to TribLive.com, hundreds were in attendance for the dog's funeral and more than $100,000 was raised in donations for a memorial fund in his name. The dog's death also inspired the passing of Rocco's Law, upping the penalty for crimes against K-9 officers.
At Rush's sentencing hearing this week, Lerza urged justice for Rocco's death even above his own injuries.
"I lost my partner from this, and he was also a family member," he told the court.
Judge Jill Rangos, in handing down the sentence, chose to have Rush serve time consecutively, not concurrently, for each conviction. As a result, he will spend the next 17 to 44 years in prison.