COVINGTON, Ky. — The man who shot at a Covington police officer and wounded a K-9 officer pleaded guilty to attempted murder Monday, among other charges, but the county prosecutor thinks those charges should be more severe.
Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders announced Tuesday that 35-year-old Daleon T. Rice pleaded guilty to attempted murder of a police officer, attempted assault on a service animal, first degree assault and persistent felony offender in the first degree.
Sanders is recommending a 40-year sentence.
Rice admitted in court to stabbing his mother in the head during a domestic dispute in April 2015. When Covington Police Officer Michael Lusardi attempted an arrest three days later, Rice opened fire on Lusardi and his K-9 partner, Ernie, injuring the service dog.
The shooting led Covington PD on a 5-hour overnight manhunt for Rice. Ernie was wounded but recovered from his injuries in the following weeks. Lusardi was unharmed during the exchange.
After returning to service 2 weeks later, Covington police fitted Ernie for body armor.
According to Sanders, “(U)nder Kentucky law, attempted murder, even of a police officer, is a ‘non-violent offense’ when the victim is not seriously injured (and)... shooting a police K-9 is only a misdemeanor unless the dog is killed or unable to return to service.”
In a release Tuesday afternoon, Sanders said, "When the service animal returns to duty, it drops the offense all the way to a class B misdemeanor, which is only punishable by up to 60 days in county jail.
"Currently, (Kentucky) law doesn't distinguish between punching a K-9 and shooting a K-9," he said.
Calling these “glaring problems with Kentucky law,” Sanders said he is working with Kentucky State Senator Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, to amend Kentucky’s revised statutes so such offenses come with stricter penalties.
Kenton County Circuit Judge Patricia Summe will sentence Rice on March 26.