PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man fatally stabbed a police dog while brawling with officers at a busway in the Pittsburgh suburbs before police opened fire and killed the suspect, authorities said.
An investigation was underway Monday to determine whether officers were justified in killing Bruce Kelley Jr., 37.
Port Authority of Allegheny County police contend Kelley Jr. and his father, Bruce Kelley Sr., 60, were drinking alcohol Sunday in a busway gazebo in Wilkinsburg before they fought with officers, who sent a K-9 after the younger man. Police killed Kelley Jr. after he fatally stabbed the dog, Aren, a 5-year-old German shepherd with four years on the transit police force.
Kelley’s father was jailed Monday on aggravated assault and other charges. Online court records don’t list an attorney for Bruce Kelley Sr., who was unable to post $300,000 bail.
The officers have been placed on paid leave pending an internal review and a ruling by the district attorney on whether deadly force was justified.
Authorities said the sequence that led to the shooting began when two officers walking along a busway trail spotted the Kelleys drinking alcohol from open containers.
According to a criminal complaint, Kelley Jr. attempted to walk away, then cursed when the officers told him to stop. He rushed one of the officers, identified only as Officer Adams in court papers, and fought with him. Adams was treated at a hospital for cuts to his hands, according to transit spokesman Jim Ritchie.
When Officer Emily Hampy tried to help subdue Kelley Jr., the younger man called to his father for help. Kelley Sr. punched Hampy in the right side of her face and knocked loose her radio and nametag, the complaint said.
Kelley Sr. was charged with possessing brass knuckles, but the complaint didn’t specify whether he used them to strike the officer.
Meanwhile, Kelly Jr. fled, and several officers caught up to him a short time later. Knowing he had a knife, they tried to subdue him with a stun gun, which didn’t work because of the suspect’s heavy coat, said county police Supt. Charles Moffatt and Port Authority police Chief Matthew Porter.
The officers then sent the dog toward Kelley Jr., who fatally stabbed the animal; Kelley Jr. was shot in the process.
Authorities didn’t immediately say how many officers fired at the suspect, or how many shots they fired. Results of an autopsy Monday weren’t immediately available.
K-9 Aren wasn’t wearing a protective vest, even though the transit agency has them.
Ritchie, the transit spokesman, said the dog was stabbed in the head and wouldn’t have been saved by a vest. K-9 handlers remove the vests at various times because the weight of them can cause spinal and hip problems for the dogs, he said.
The dog’s death was the second fatal K-9 stabbing in the county in two years.
Pittsburgh police K-9 Rocco died Jan. 30, 2014, days after being stabbed by a burglary suspect. The assailant was convicted on charges that included killing the dog and sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
Rocco’s death prompted state lawmakers to stiffen the maximum sentence for killing a police animal from seven to 10 years.