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Two $7.5K donations allow Riverhead to acquire new police dog to replace Rocky

A new K-9 will soon begin training as a replacement for Rocky, the Riverhead Police Department dog killed in the line of duty Sept. 2.

Police Chief David Hegermiller said a $7,500 donation from two local residents allowed the department to quickly purchase a new dog. Ron Hariri and Colleen O’Brien of Aquebogue donated the sum on the same day Rocky died.

Town officials said on Friday that Island Federal Credit Union, which has a branch in Riverhead, also donated $7,500 to the town in memory of Rocky. Officials said the two donations will be used to pay for the new K9 and all associated costs, such as maintenance.

“We did this out of respect for the memory of Rocky and respect for the officers of Riverhead’s police department,” said Mr. Hariri, who’s an attorney with an office in Manhattan. “We respect the police for their service and for putting their lives on the line every day, like Rocky did.”

Mr. Hariri and Ms. O’Brien presented the check to town officials in a small ceremony on the lawn of the police department Thursday. They brought their dog Marston along for the ceremony.

The town actually got the new dog Friday and it will be kept in quarantine for about a week to check that it’s healthy. The German shepherd will then be turned over to Officer John Morris to begin training, the chief said. It’s unclear what the new dog’s name will be. Rocky was named after Roscoe Palmer, a former Riverhead police chief who died in 2009.

“It just so happened that Suffolk County was in the process of purchasing dogs for itself and they were in Pennsylvania last Thursday, so we were able to get a police officer out there to buy one with them,” the chief said.

The county bought five dogs.

Mr. Morris has been a K-9 officer paired with Rocky for seven years. Rocky was 8 when he died. He was one of two K-9 cops in the department along with Titan, who works with Officer John Doscinski.

In the past, the cost of K-9s was funded by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Chief Hegermiller said.

“We’re most appreciative of Mr. Hariri and Ms. O’Brien to make this huge donation,” said Riverhead Councilman Tim Hubbard, a former town police officer. “It’s a show of their support for police and the K-9 program, which is an integral part of the police department. It’s amazing what the K-9 dogs can do.”

The ceremony Thursday was held near the spot were Ace is buried. Ace was a police dog who was killed in the line of duty on Oct. 12, 1993, when he was shot while working a case in Greenport.

The town has a small monument for Ace on the police department lawn.

Rocky’s remains were turned over to Mr. Morris.

Dozens of K-9 officers traveled to Veterans Memorial Park Monday to pay respects to Rocky and in support of Mr. Morris. A funeral procession passed through the parking lot as the K-9 officers, including some from the NYPD, stood at attention and it then continued to police headquarters. A private funeral ceremony was held for Rocky with Mr. Morris, his family and some officers.

Last week the town said it would be accepting donations in memory of Rocky that will go toward expenses such as training, maintenance, equipment and veterinarian expenses. Checks can be made payable to “Riverhead Town Police Department — K9” and addressed to “Office of the Police Chief (K9) at 210 Howell Avenue, Riverhead, NY 11901.

Photo caption: (From left) Councilwoman Catherine Kent, Councilman Tim Hubbard, Chief David Hegermiller, Colleen O’Brien, Councilman Jim Wooten and Ron Hariri, who brought his dog Marston. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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