Frankie, a K9 working dog for the Massachusetts State Police's Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section, died from gunshot wounds on Tuesday, July 27, 2022. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
For the first time since it was enacted five months ago, Massachusetts authorities used Nero’s Law to rush a critically wounded police working dog to a veterinary emergency hospital.
But Frankie, a Belgian Malinois handled by Massachusetts State Police Sgt. David Stucenski, died on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 26, at Wachusett Animal Hospital in Westminster after a fugitive in Fitchburg opened fire on officers serving an arrest warrant.
Troopers said the suspect, Matthew Mack, 38, who was wanted for firearm violations tied to a recent shooting, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after police negotiators failed to persuade him from an Oliver Street home.
“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,” Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said in a prepared statement. “He was a beloved member of the Massachusetts State Police family and the Stucenski family. He was, as much as any human, a member of the department, one of us and part of us.”
Rep. Steven Xiarhos shared a screen shot of a text message where he received a photo showing members of the Massachusetts State Police Special Tactical Operations team rushing K-9 Frankie to the ambulance after he was shot Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Photo courtesy of Rep. Steven Xiarhos. Composite Image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.
Frankie died a month shy of his 11th birthday.
A highly decorated dog, in 2017 he and Sgt. Stucenski shared the prestigious Medal of Valor, the state’s highest commendation for police bravery, for collaring a hit-and-run suspect who shot at them in Springfield.
Three years earlier, Stucenski and Frankie received three awards from the US Police Canine Association for agility, evidence recovery, and other law enforcement skills.
Last month, Frankie and Stucenski and other members of their Special Tactical Operations Team were honored for nabbing a child pornography suspect who opened fire on them in a West Springfield motel in 2019.
Despite the tragic outcome, Massachusetts State Rep. Steven Xiarhos, the Barnstable Republican who became the driving force behind passing Nero’s Law, told Coffee or Die Magazine the legislation had given Frankie a puncher’s chance at surviving, something that wouldn’t have happened last year because paramedics were barred from transporting injured animals.
“I’m feeling heartbroken again and angry,” Xiarhos said. “This is the first use of our new law. Too many violent criminals are on the loose in our midst, but we gave our brave K9 Frankie his best chance to survive.”
K-9 Frankie and his handler, Sergeant David Stucenski, were awarded the Medal of Valor and the Medal of Merit in 2017 for apprehending and arresting a hit-and-run suspect who shot at them during the pursuit. State Police Association of Massachusetts photo.
Xiarhos recently testified in the Rhode Island State House, where legislators passed a bill similar to Nero’s Law, allowing police dogs there the same opportunity to receive treatment and transportation as Frankie received.
Xiarhos hopes the law will be adopted and enacted in all 50 states.
Both law enforcement officials and the union that represents troopers, the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said Nero’s Law worked as it was intended during the Tuesday standoff.
The elite law enforcement operators quickly handed the wounded animal off to the ambulance crew for transportation to the veterinary emergency room.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the first responders and medical staff who tried their hardest to save K-9 Frankie's life,” union officials said in a prepared statement.
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Frankie is the fourth K9 dog in Massachusetts to die in the line of duty since late 2017.
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Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.
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