NORTH SIDE - A memorial service for fallen officers and K-9s took on a new meaning after Tuesday's crash that killed a Ligonier Township police lieutenant.
Officers and supporters gathered at the Fallen Police Officer Memorial on the North Side Wednesday morning to pay their respects.
The memorial was planned months ago in cooperation with a group called Law Enforcement United. The organization raises money to help the families of fallen officers, and offers support programs throughout the country and in Canada.
Wednesday's memorial service focused on K-9 officers that have lost their lives.
"It was especially important to myself and my team that we come to Pittsburgh this year, since Pittsburgh lost K-9 Officer Rocco in 2014 and two other dogs ince 1991," says Master Dep. Dwight Greear, of Law Enforcement United.
In light of Tuesday's deadly crash that killed Lt. Eric Eslary, and injured his K-9 partner, Blek, the event took on a whole new meaning.
"It's tragic when you see this, and it rocks us to the core," says Scott Schubert, Assistant Chief of Operations for the City of Pittsburgh. "It's like somebody sticking their hand and punching you through the chest and pulling out your heart. That's what it feels like for us law enforcement, and the public…Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and the Ligonier Township Police Department."
There was a moment of silence in Lt. Eslary's honor, and a prayer.
"God, we continue to pray for Officer Eslary's family," says Rev. John Welch, Chaplain for the Pittsburgh Police Department. "We're thankful for Blek's recovery. And we remember, Lord God, not only how bonded the K-9s are with the officers, but also, how close they are with the families as well."
As the ceremony wrapped up, members of Law Enforcement United got on their bikes and started their memorial ride to Washington, D.C.
They'll bike hundreds of miles to raise awareness about the 140–160 officers who are killed in the line of duty in the United States every year.
"You never know what's going to happen any day you go to work," says Schubert. "We just need to support the police and thank them for what they do, the selfless sacrifice that they do, day in and day out."
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