A Pennsylvania man was sentenced on Tuesday to at least 17 years in prison for fatally stabbing a Pittsburgh police dog while officers were trying to arrest him, officials said.
A jury found John Rush, 22, guilty in December of 11 charges including aggravated assault, torture of a police animal and disarming an officer in the killing of the 8-year-old German shepherd named Rocco.
Rush encountered the dog in January 2014 in the basement of a building where he was hiding from Pittsburgh police who were seeking to arrest him on outstanding warrants, parole violation and failure to register as a sex offender, according to police.
Cornered in the basement, Rush stabbed the dog before he was subdued by officers, police said.
The dog died of spinal and kidney injuries at a veterinary clinic two days later.
During his trial, Rush testified that he stabbed the dog in self defense. His attorney did not return requests for comment on Tuesday.
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After the dog's death, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed "Rocco's Law" that increased penalties for killing a police animal to 10 years in prison from seven and added a $25,000 fine for the offense.
Hundreds of people attended the dog's funeral and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto ordered city flags flown at half-staff in his honor.
Funds raised after Rocco's death have been used to purchase protective vests for 13 Pittsburgh police dogs.
Rush was sentenced to a prison term of 17-and-three-quarters to 44 years in prison plus eight years probation in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.
A court official said although Rush was not sentenced under Rocco's Law, he received a stiff sentence due to having a prior record.