Investigation continues into death of a Coalinga Police K9

Kassandra Gutierrez Image
Thursday, July 11, 2024
Investigation continues into death of a Coalinga Police K9
An investigation continues into the loss of a Coalinga Police Department K9.

COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- An investigation continues into the loss of a Coalinga Police Department K9.

Nitro was skilled and helped in several narcotics detection arrests.

He died Monday, and tonight, there are questions about what role our dangerous heat played and if enough is being done to protect these animals.

The Coalinga Police Chief, says the investigation is still ongoing.

Today, we learned that they have brought in an outside agency to help.

As they work to determine what led to his death, they also want to honor Nitro.

"It's a tragedy losing a team player, because Nitro was part of the family, part of the team, so it's a big loss," said Coalinga Police Chief Jose Garza.

Nitro was half German Shepherd and half Belgian Malinois. He was found lethargic and in his outdoor kennel early Monday morning.

His handler tried cooling him down, then rushed him to the emergency vet, where he died.

Police are waiting for the necropsy to determine the official cause of death.

The response to this story from our Action News viewers was overwhelming.

So many of you took to our social media posts to ask how long the dog had been left outside amid our dangerous heat wave, and how he could keep cool in his outdoor kennel.

We took those questions to the Chief and got this answer:

"I can't talk as to the kennel, the time, the place, but I wanna assure the community that we are doing the investigation and waiting for the reports," said Chief Garza.

Department policy says canines are to be kept outdoors but can be brought inside to socialize.

A law enforcement expert says departments trust handlers to do what's best for their partner.

"Canine officers are charged with basically maintaining their health. They must have a run for the dog, a place for the dog to shelter in place of something cool," says Bruce Thomas, a law enforcement expert.

A report on the death will likely take weeks to prepare.

The International Police K9 Association says that's normal.

"What I would ask the community is, please be patient," says Rob Havice, the president of the International Police Canine Association.

"Wait for the test results to come back. Let the department do their investigation. They will get to the bottom of it and figure it out."

However, the Chief says there could be consequences.

He says if the investigation determines wrongdoing or negligence, the handler can face punishment.

The chief also said that if the investigation finds that they should update their K9 policies and procedures, they will do that.

Nitro will be honored in the coming weeks, and the community will be welcomed.

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