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Rocky, fallen Riverhead police dog, mourned at funeral

Riverhead police and others mourned fallen police dog Rocky at a funeral and procession on Monday. The K-9 was killed Sept. 2 after a vehicle fled a sobriety checkpoint and a pursuing K-9 patrol unit crashed, authorities said. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

He was a good boy gone far too soon, mourners said Monday of Rocky, a Riverhead Town police K-9 that died while on duty last week.

Dozens of officers and residents gathered to pay their respects to the German shepherd, who was killed Sept. 2. The dog was ejected from a vehicle involved in the pursuit of a driver who fled a sobriety check, according to Riverhead police.

Rocky worked for the department for about seven years, assisting in everything from search and rescue to narcotics operations, said Riverhead Police Officer John Doscinski, whose partner, Officer John Morris, was Rocky’s handler.

“He had a very successful career," Doscinski said of the dog. "He’s apprehended robbery suspects, he’s apprehended burglary suspects. The list goes on and on and on. He was a very good dog.”

After a private service for Rocky, police from several different agencies gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton for a funeral procession to Riverhead police headquarters. As the vehicles streamed past, residents beside their own dogs bowed their heads and Suffolk County police officers saluted beside their K-9 partners.

"He's a member of our police agency and he's also a member of our family, so it's a tragic loss," Riverhead police Lt. David Lessard said. "We're all in mourning."

Officers were conducting a sobriety check at about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 2 on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead when a dark-colored Audi entered and an officer asked the driver to stop for questioning, police said in a news release. The driver fled, striking an officer, and several Riverhead patrol units, including Morris and Rocky, pursued the vehicle.

While in pursuit, Morris lost control of his vehicle and hit a utility pole on West Main Street, police said. Rocky was ejected from the vehicle and killed. Morris and the officer who was hit were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries, police said.

Doscinski said the bond between a K-9 and its handler is exceptionally strong.

“A pet owner gets very dedicated to their pet. This takes it to the next level,” Doscinski said. “I would say we spend more time with these dogs, without a doubt, than with our family.”

Morris, who attended the private service, was not immediately available for comment, Riverhead police said.

Lessard said the department is planning to erect a headstone for Rocky outside police headquarters with donations they’ve received from the community. The stone will be near a granite marker for another police dog, Ace, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 1993.

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