Riverhead, NY – Riverhead Police Department K9 Rocky was killed in the line of duty on Sunday, when the vehicle he was riding in with his partner crashed into a pole during a pursuit.
The incident began at approximately 2:30 a.m., when the unidentified driver of an Audi drove through a DWI checkpoint on Long Island, striking an officer, WCBS reported.
Several police units responded to the area, including K9 Rocky and his handler, and began pursuing the suspect vehicle, according to WNBC.
As the duo sped down West Main Street, just west of Raynor Avenue, K9 Rocky’s handler lost control of the patrol vehicle.
The cruiser careened of the roadway and slammed into a utility pole, at which point K9 Rocky was ejected.
“He didn’t know where the dog was,” witness Gabriel Guazhambo told News 12 Long Island. “And when he saw the dog, he just started crying.”
K9 Rocky died at the scene.
His partner and the officer hit by the Audi driver were both transported to the Peconic Bay Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries WNBC reported.
Police ultimately terminated the pursuit in Manorville, after concluding it was too dangerous to continue.
The driver remains at large.
K9 Rocky, a German Shepherd, had been with the department for seven years, FOX News reported. He was one of two police dogs working for the agency.
He was named in honor of former Riverhead Police Chief Roscoe “Rocky” Palmer, a 37-year veteran of the department, who served as Riverhead’s chief for 11 years, the Riverhead Local reported.
Chief Palmer passed away in 2009 at the age of 79, according to the New York Post.
His widow, Helen Palmer, said that K9 Rocky was a “beautiful, beautiful dog.”
“It’s very upsetting…He’s going to be missed by everyone,” she said.
Riverhead Police Sergeant Steven Palmer, the former chief’s son, identified K9 Rocky’s handler as Officer John Morris.
“Dogs and their handlers, they have a special bond with each other,’’ Sgt. Palmer said. “It’s natural to be very upset about the whole situation.”
He said he worked with Officer Morris and K9 Rocky just two weeks ago during a search for a shooting suspect.
“When he was doing a search, he was all business,” Sgt. Palmer said of K9 Rocky’s work ethic. “He was very dedicated to his work.’’
Plans for a memorial service are still being considered, he said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Riverhead Police Department and Officer John Morris in the loss of K9 Rocky.