FITCHBURG, Mass. (WPRI) — The Massachusetts State Police is mourning the loss of a K-9 who was shot and killed by an armed fugitive Tuesday afternoon.
Col. Christopher Mason said K-9 Frankie was killed as troopers tried to apprehend a suspect who had barricaded himself inside a Fitchburg home.
The suspect, identified by Mason as 38-year-old Matthew Mack, was wanted on several firearms offenses and as an accessory to a shooting that happened last week.
Negotiators tried to coax Mack out of the home peacefully for several hours before deciding to enter the residence.
Mason said Frankie was shot when he and his handler Sergeant David Stucenski entered the home and approached where Mack was hiding. Stucenski and the other troopers who were with them in the residence were not injured.
Frankie was carried out of the home and rushed to the Wachusett Animal Hospital by ambulance, where he was later pronounced dead.
Mack ended up fatally shooting himself a few hours after killing Frankie, according to Mason.
Mason said Frankie was a Belgian Malinois who would have turned 11 next month. He served the Massachusetts State Police for nine years prior to his death.
Frankie, according to Mason, was “highly decorated,” having won a number of prestigious awards alongside Stucenski.
“Frankie is the first Massachusetts State Police canine killed in the line of duty,” Mason said. “His sacrifice will never be forgotten.”
Mason said Frankie “had every trait we seek in a good law enforcement officer, canine or human: intelligence, immense courage, and dedication to protecting the public.”
“He was as loyal a partner as any trooper ever had,” he continued. “He was, as much as any human of the member of the department, one of us and part of us.”
Condolences began pouring in from law enforcement agencies across the region within hours of Frankie’s death.
The State Police Association of Massachusetts said in a statement that Frankie’s service “was nothing short of incredible.”
“As K-9 Frankie did hundreds of times before, he placed himself between our members and a dangerous subject,” the statement reads. “In this incident, the suspect opened fire on K-9 Frankie and his handler, and without hesitation, K-9 Frankie charged the gunman, disarming him and saving his handler’s life.”
Frankie was the first dog to be transported by ambulance since Gov. Charlie Baker signed “Nero’s Law” earlier this year, which allows first responders to treat and transport K-9s injured in the line of duty.
The law was enacted four years after Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon was shot and killed while serving a warrant in Barnstable. His K-9 partner Nero was also shot and gravely injured, though first responders couldn’t treat nor transport him to a nearby veterinary hospital at the time. (Nero has since recovered from his injuries and still lives with the Gannon family.)
Mason said whenever a Massachusetts State Police K-9 passes away, the handlers call it “free time.”
“It means that these brave dogs who work so hard to protect the rest of us have earned their eternal peace,” he explained. “Free time and Godspeed, Frankie.”
Frankie’s body was transported with full honors to Final Gift Pet Memorial Center in Cranston Tuesday night. More than 80 cruisers from departments across the state made the drive to the pet crematorium to pay tribute to Frankie.