Officer Rossicone & K9 Leo Commended

18Dec08

Located missing boy in woods on cold December night
Officer Brett Rossicone & K9 LeoTwo Wakefield, Massachusetts police officers received commendations last night. One of them walks on two legs, the other on four.
Police Chief Rick Smith and the Board of Selectmen last night formally commended Officer Brett Rossicone and K9 Leo for rescuing and likely saving the life of a missing 11-year-old boy earlier this month. In addition to the commendation from the Wakefield Police Department, Smith also presented Officer Rossicone with a plaque from Middlesex County Sheriff James DiPaula recognizing his heroic efforts.

The situation unfolded on the night of December 5, when it became apparent that the boy may have gone out into the Town Forest from the back of his home on Castle Clare Circle. The boy’s mother had last seen him at approximately 3 p.m. The parents were under the impression that the boy had gone over to a friend’s house, as previously planned. When they realized that their son had not arrived at the friend’s house, the parents called police and reported him missing. During the course of the investigation, it was learned that the boy may have been upset about something and that he had on previous occasions run off into the town forest.

Due to the darkness and freezing temperatures, K9 units as well as a state police helicopter were summoned to assist with the search. When Officer Rossicone and K9 Leo arrived on the scene, the boy had possibly been in the woods for four hours.

Chief Smith told the Selectmen last night that the woods behind the missing boy’s home are very rugged with terrain that is difficult to navigate, especially at night. The State Police chopper had been scanning the woods for about 15 minutes with no results when Officer Rossicone and Melrose Officer Donovan with K9s Leo and Johnny entered the woods to search for the boy.

With K9 Leo tracking, Officer Rossicone and Leo located the boy in the woods approximately an hour into the search, roughly a quarter mile from the house, Chief Smith said. The boy was huddled on the ground under some brush and was initially unresponsive. Officer Rossicone had to physically wake the boy, who was still in a confused state and showing signs of exposure and hypothermia.

With the assistance of other officers, Rossicone was able to get the youngster out of the woods to waiting Wakefield EMTs for medical treatment. Smith told the board that, had it not been for the work of Wakefield’s K9 team of Officer Rossicone and Leo, the boy “had little chance of surviving” that December night in the woods.

“There is no question,” Chief Smith added, “that these actions and the actions of the entire search team saved the life of the victim.” Smith applauded the work that night of Wakefield Police Sgt. Sean Beede and others involved with the search effort.

Smith also praised Officer Rossicone’s overall dedication to working with K9 Leo, devoting extra time to training the dog in tracking exercises.

“They are out there working and training,” Smith said, “and it paid off big time. It paid off in huge dividends on the night of December 5.” Recognizing the “team effort,” Smith pulled several dog treats from his pocket for Rossicone to give to Leo.

Officer Rossicone’s wife Heidi and daughters Sophia, 6, and Charlotte, 4, as well as other family members were on hand last night as he was presented with the commendations.

“This is certainly a proud time for the Rossicone family,” Selectman John Carney said, “and I’m proud that you’re a part of the Wakefield Police Department.”

Selectman James Good echoed Carney’s comments, calling Rossicone “a credit to the Wakefield Police Department.” Good also noted that the K9 program in Wakefield requires ongoing funds and encouraged any local citizens who can contribute to write a check to the “Town of Wakefield K9 Fund.”

Selectman Patrick Glynn said that he knew the family of the missing boy very well. “They said, ‘If it weren’t for Leo, we wouldn’t have our son,’” Glynn told Rossicone. “Everyone who has children in this town is grateful to you.”

Selectman Albert Turco congratulated Officer Rossicone. “It’s not everyone who can say honestly that they’ve saved someone’s life.” Turco also praised Chief Smith who was instrumental in bringing the K9 program to Wakefield. “Leo certainly earned his keep,” Turco said. “This one act justifies the entire project.” Turco also presented Rossicone with a bag of “healthy treats” for Leo.

Selectman John Encarnacao congratulated Rossicone on “a job well done” and thanked him for his “dedication and commitment.”

In echoing the comments of other board members, Selectman Phyllis Hull told Rossicone that she was “as proud of you as anyone else around this table. I congratulate you on what you’ve done.”

Chairman Betsy Sheeran also recognized Rossicone’s work with K9 Leo and presented him with some dog biscuits for his partner.

[This story originally appeared in the December 16, 2008 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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