FITCHBURG — Dozens of heads bowed in reverent unison on Saturday afternoon at the annual Fitchburg Dog Park festival during a moment of silence for K-9 Frankie, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in July.
“We are here today in honor of Frankie,” said Vest-a-Dog board member Rachel Dodson. “Frankie is a great example of these dogs putting their lives on the line to protect civilians, their handlers, and the team behind them. I think he would be proud, and we are very proud to see the outpouring of support for all law enforcement as a result of what happened to him. And I absolutely know his handler is grateful for the outpouring of support.”
Frankie, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, won numerous distinctions and was highly decorated alongside handler Sgt. David Stucenski during his nine years as a Massachusetts State Police K-9.
He was the first K-9 in state police history killed in the line of duty during an altercation that took place in Fitchburg on July 26 when an armed man barricaded himself in a three-decker home downtown. Police tried to arrest the man on warrants charging him with firearms offenses and accessory after the fact stemming from a shooting incident in Fitchburg the previous week.
The man later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Stucenski was not injured in the confrontation.
Vest-a-Dog Vice President Kelly Robinson, who is married to a retired K-9 officer, said the all-volunteer nonprofit organization that provided Frankie’s bulletproof vest provides funding that “goes to essential equipment” for K-9 training including bite sleeves and more.
Gardner Police Officer Josh Willis attended Saturday’s festival with his K-9 partner, Rocky, and provided K-9 demonstrations along with Fitchburg State University Police Officer Erin Morreale and K-9 Oden, and State Police Officer Chat Tata and K-9 partner Luna.
The Fitchburg Police Relief Association recently announced a GoFundMe fundraiser for the construction of a life-sized granite memorial in Frankie’s likeness, which will be permanently on display at the Fitchburg Police Memorial Park located near the end of the Water Street bridge.
“Forming this memorial is significant, as Frankie’s steadfast dedication to his job reflected his daily performance,” said Fitchburg Police Officer Ryan Kreidler and FPRA vice president. “Throughout Frankie’s 9-year career, he compiled several awards for bravery and valor.”
Kreidler added, “Frankie’s tragic death holds significance within the commonwealth for two notable aspects.”
“Frankie is the first Massachusetts State Police K-9 to be killed in the line of duty. Additionally, Frankie would become the first K-9 to be transported by ambulance and receive medical care under a newly signed law in Massachusetts called ‘Nero’s Law.’ This law allowed Frankie to receive immediate on-scene care, ambulance transport, and hospital care.”
Kreidler, a city police officer for two years and FPRA vice president for one year, said the organization was “inspired to organize a memorial for Frankie, as Fitchburg Police and the Massachusetts State Police often collaborate,” including at the incident which led to Frankie’s death.
Kreidler was one of many city and regional officers there that day and provided support to the Massachusetts State Police STOP Team, including Stucenski and Frankie, after they “were presented with a wanted armed fugitive that was barricaded within the confines of his residence.”
“As STOP Team personnel attempted negotiations, gunfire erupted, to which Frankie was struck,” Kreidler recalled. “As this occurred, Fitchburg officers on scene and STOP Team members alike responded rapidly to ensure the best possible evacuation and escort of Frankie to safety.”
Fitchburg EMS transported Frankie to Wachusett Animal Hospital. Despite extensive measures to save his life, Frankie succumbed to his injuries with Stucenski by his side.
Kreidler said as members of the FPRA, they believe recognizing Frankie’s service to Fitchburg and the state should be permanently documented.
“Placing this statue at our police memorial shows our bond with our K-9 partners, allowing Frankie’s memory to live on,” Kreidler said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, close to $16,000 has been raised towards the $100,000 goal for the memorial.
“Words cannot express our gratitude to those who have donated and shared our post, as it shows the bond between the community and the Commonwealth,” Kreidler said. “We appreciate our supporters as they leave messages memorializing Frankie and encouraging this project forward.”
Questions may be directed to Fitchburg Police Relief Association Vice President Officer Ryan Kreidler by calling 978-956-3205 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mail correspondence can be sent to the Fitchburg Police Relief Association at PO Box 7476, Fitchburg, Mass. 01420. People are asked not to call the Fitchburg Police Department itself.