Hundreds Pay Respect To K9 Choper

Conewango Township Officer and K9 Handler Scott Neiswonger grieves following the ceremony. P-J photo by Brian Ferry

WARREN, Pa. — At least 50 law enforcement officers and hundreds of citizens attended a funeral service Tuesday afternoon at Warren Area High School to remember and celebrate Conewango Township Police K9 Officer Choper.

Canine handlers from as far as Virginia came to honor Choper and Conewango Township Police Officer and K9 Handler Scott Neiswonger.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Officer Scott Neiswonger,” Conewango Township Police Department Chief Jason Peters said. Neiswonger lost “his law enforcement partner, his companion, his friend.”

Choper died early Wednesday, June 6, as a result of injuries sustained in a fall during a training exercise.

“Choper was driven to complete his duties as a law enforcement officer,” Peters said. “He was in that state of mind — get the bad guy. What happened next was unimaginable. That driven spirit broke through that locked door to that rooftop.”

“Two hearts were broken in that moment,” he said.

Choper was trained for drug detection, tracking, and apprehension. He also assisted the department with public relations.

“Choper widened the eyes of almost all the children here in Warren, including my own son,” Peters said. “Rest easy, Choper. Good boy.”

Neiswonger asked his friend, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Andrew Goss, to speak at the ceremony.

“We both came to law enforcement to make a difference,” Goss said.

He said Neiswonger had confided in him that he hoped someday to be “lucky enough” to become a canine handler. “He felt that would refocus him and renew his energy as a law enforcement officer,” Goss said.

He was working when “Scott brought a very handsome German shepherd named Choper to the state police barracks to meet the guys,” he said. “From that day forward, I referred to Choper as ‘Little Guy.'”

“Choper existed in this world to serve the people of Conewango Township and Warren County,” he said.

He said Choper performed that service “effectively, enthusiastically, and with honor.”

Police officers develop relationships with their partners. “We absolutely know when the sh*t hits the fan, that person has our back,” Goss said.

And people develop bonds with their pets. “They really do become part of a family,” he said.

Choper was both for Neiswonger, a partner and family.

“How much more, then, do we develop a bond with an animal that goes to work with us?” he asked. “Every hour of every day. Every day of every week. Every week of every year. What kind of bond is formed?”

“Not just a partner,” Goss said. “A family member. A best friend.”

“I know that Choper led a happy, meaningful, purpose-filled life that we were all lucky enough to share a little bit of,” he said. “Scott, you and Choper have made a difference and had an influence.”

“May God take the Little Guy into his loving grace and protection,” Goss said. “Rest easy, Little Guy. We got it from here. And worry not, we’ll take care of Dad.”

Gov. Tom Wolf was unable to attend the ceremony, but sent a statement that was read by Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene.

“It is my honor to pay respect to K9 Officer Choper,” Wolf wrote. “Choper has earned great distinction. Choper ensured the safety and well-being of fellow officers by demonstrating exemplary honor and bravery.”

At the end of the service, the final radio call went out for Choper.

“Warren County K9 109…”

“Warren County K9 109…”

“We regret to announce, with deep sadness, the passing of Conewango Township K9 109. His last call came on June 6, 2018, at 0:02 hours. Rest in peace and know that we have it from here.”

Following the service, about 40 law enforcement vehicles processed from the high school to the Conewango Township Police Department office in Starbrick.