An Ashland police dog Wednesday became the first dog to receive a state heroism award named for a Massachusetts state trooper killed in the line of duty, his handler said.
Officer Chris Alberini said his dog, Dax, saved him from being shot when he climbed into an attic where a suspect was hiding with a shotgun.
“If Dax hadn’t been there, I’d be dead,” Alberini said.
Alberini and Dax were both presented with medals of valor at the Trooper L. George L. Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery at the State House. The award’s namesake was killed during a traffic stop in Auburn in 1983.
A total of 25 officers received awards at the ceremony, including slain Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean A. Collier, 26, who was allegedly murdered by the Boston Marathon bombers.
Alberini and Dax, who lives with Alberini’s family, were recognized for their role in apprehending a suspect who had holed himself up in his attic after officers tried to pull him over on July 2, 2013.
Alberini, who was off duty, and Dax were called to assist in the search for the suspect, who had a suspended driver’s license and an active arrest warrant, officials said.
Alberini called into the house the suspect had entered and told him to come out or he’d send in Dax. When no one responded, Alberini and Dax started to search the house.
Dax found a ceiling hatch leading to an attic and alerted Alberini, who yelled up to the suspect to come down. The man did not respond.
Alberini hoisted Dax into the attic, where he grabbed the suspect by the leg.
Alberini followed carrying a flashlight and found Dax wrestling with the suspect.
That’s when the man started reaching for a shotgun from his left side.
“I tried fighting for the weapon and drew my service weapon and shot him twice,” Alberini said.
The suspect was hit in the torso. But Alberini said the man would have likely fired at him immediately if Dax hadn’t gone into the attic first. The suspect’s shotgun was loaded with five rounds of ammunition.
“He was waiting in the attic for the police officer to turn a flashlight on him and he was going to shoot,” Alberini said.
Investigators later learned that the suspect had texted his attorney and girlfriend from the attic and wrote that he was “going to take out as many of them as he could.”
The suspect, Andrew Stigliano, 27, was killed. The shooting was determined to be legally justified by Middlesex County prosecutors.
Alberini called the honor “humbling.” Dax’s medal came with a special backing to protect him from its sharp edges when he wears it.
“I’m really, really glad that Dax got it. He deserved it,” Alberini said. “They’ve never given one to a dog before. It really highlights what an asset canines are to a police department.”