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Roethlisberger to buy Pittsburgh new police dog to replace Rocco

| Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, 10:52 p.m.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will buy a new police dog for the Pittsburgh Police Department, which lost a K-9 in the line of duty.

“Roethlisberger was among the countless thousands who were saddened when Pittsburgh Police K-9 (Officer) Rocco lost his life after being injured while on duty,” according to a news release posted on the Steelers website on Monday night.

Rocco, an 8-year-old German shepherd, was stabbed in the back on Jan. 28 as he was trying to protect his handler from a knife-wielding fugitive in Lawrenceville. The K-9 died two days later in Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center in Ohio Township. Hundreds attended his funeral services on Friday.

“Roethlisberger wanted to do something to help, and the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation will by purchasing another K-9 dog for the Pittsburgh Police Department and Officer Phil Lerza, who was Rocco's partner and handler,” according to the statement released by the Steelers.

John L. Rush, 21, of Stowe is accused of attacking Rocco with a pocketknife, stabbing Lerza in the shoulder and injuring two other officers trying to arrest him on several outstanding warrants.

Rush remains in the Allegheny County Jail to await a preliminary hearing scheduled on Wednesday on more than a dozen charges filed in connection with the stabbing.

“Rocco can never be replaced, but we can only hope to help with the healing process and to provide Officer Lerza with another loyal partner,” Roethlisberger said in a statement.

City police could not be reached for comment.

The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation was established when a police dog was shot and killed in the quarterback's hometown of Findlay, Ohio.

Since that time, the foundation has funded the purchase of police dogs and equipment throughout the country, predominantly in Pittsburgh, Ohio and cities where the Steelers have played.

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or mhasch@tribweb.com.

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