Will Katcher, masslive.com
The Massachusetts State Police K-9 shot and killed Tuesday while attempting to capture an armed suspect in Fitchburg had a storied and celebrated career with his handler, state police officials said following the dog’s death.
Frankie, a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois, won numerous distinctions and was highly decorated alongside handler Sgt. David Stucenski during the dog’s nine years as a state police K-9. He was the first K-9 in state police history killed in the line of duty.
Stucenski, Frankie and other members of law enforcement were fired upon by suspect Matthew Mack as police attempted to apprehend the 38-year-old wanted in connection with a shooting incident in Fitchburg last week, according to State Police Col. Christopher Mason.
Frankie was struck by gunfire and rushed to Wachusett Animal Hospital in Westminster, where he was pronounced dead. Mack — barricaded in a third-floor apartment at 40 Oliver St. — is believed to have shot himself after an hours-long standoff with police, Mason said.
Frankie would have turned 11 years old next month, having served most of his life in the state police. He was highly decorated, Mason said, earning among the state’s highest honors for law enforcement.
“Frankie had every trait we seek in a good law enforcement officer, canine or human: intelligence, immense courage, and dedication to protecting the public,” Mason said. “He was a beloved member of the Massachusetts State Police family and the Stucenski family. He was, as much as any human of the member of the department, one of us and part of us.”
In 2017, Frankie and Stucenski were jointly awarded the Medal of Valor at the state’s top police award ceremony, the George L. Hanna Awards for Bravery.
The pair had apprehended a hit-and-run suspect who fired upon them during a foot chase in Springfield, Mason said. Neither K-9 nor handler were injured in the incident, for which they were also awarded the State Police Medal of Merit.
Three years prior, Stucenski and Frankie won three awards from the United States Police Canine Association for evidence recovery, agility and other police skills, Mason said.
In June, the state police honored the K-9 and sergeant alongside other members of a tactical team for apprehending an armed suspect who fired the police as they tried to arrest him at a West Springfield motel in 2019.
Police said they spent hours Tuesday negotiating with Mack after first making contact with the suspect around 11 a.m. Mack — sought on multiple firearms offenses and other charges stemming from a July 21 shooting incident in the Fitchburg — “refused to exit the home” he was barricaded in, Mason said.
Negotiators attempted to convince Mack to “surrender peacefully,” speaking both to the suspect and his family members throughout the late morning and afternoon, Mason said.
When law enforcement observed Mack near the rear entrance of the apartment just after 2:45 p.m., they decided to try to apprehend him. Mack fired multiple shots at a state police tactical team and Frankie, striking the K-9, before retreating back to the residence, Mason said. SWAT team members picked Frankie up and evacuated him to the Wachusett Animal Hospital, where he died.
It was the first application of Nero’s Law, signed in February, which ensured police officers’ K-9 partners can receive life-saving medical care and transportation when injured in the line of duty. Legislators wrote the law in response to a shooting during an armed standoff in Yarmouth that claimed the life of Police K-9 Sgt. Sean Gannon. His K-9 companion Nero was shot, but survived the shooting.
Mason said the state police observed via drone around 5:20 p.m. that Mack was dead inside the apartment he had barricaded. Troopers entered the apartment, breaching a third-floor door.
No police officers fired their weapons during this incident, Mason said.
Condolences for Frankie’s death arrived from police and state agencies across Massachusetts.