Update: Authorities launch internal-affairs investigation of LBPD K-9 found dead inside patrol car

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Photo Courtesy Long Beach Police Department
Long Beach police announced Ozzy, a K-9 dog pictured on the left, was found dead inside a department vehicle on Aug. 14. Ozzy was immortalized as a stuffed animal (right) last year as part of a fundraiser hosted by the Long Beach Police Historical Society.

[Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Aug. 29 to include a statement from police about an internal-affairs investigation that was announced Aug. 28.]

Long Beach police announced Friday that it is investigating the death of a police dog that was found alone inside a department-issued vehicle.

Ozzy the K-9, who is half Belgium Malinois and half German Shepard, was found dead Aug. 14 while his handler was off-duty, police said. A veterinarian who examined the dog said preliminary results indicated the cause of death was heat-related.

Over five years of service and approximately $25 million in U.S. currency and narcotics recovered can be credited to Ozzy.

“The #LBPD is extremely saddened to announce the death of K-9 Ozzy,” the LBPD tweeted Friday. “At the time, Ozzy & his handler were both off-duty and Ozzy was inside the officer’s department issued K-9 vehicle. The death was immediately reported to the LBPD and a review into the circumstances was initiated.”

In a emailed statement, police officials said that the department’s K-9 vehicles are outfitted with fail-safe equipment that can generate an alert if something goes wrong. The statement reads that police believe the alert function did not work and that the incident was unintentional.

The Signal Tribune reached out to retired LBPD Detective Steve Strichart who had experience with the department’s various vehicles during his time in service.

“The cars have fans built into them. I’m not sure if it was overheated,” he speculated. “The cars are equipped so the dogs don’t overheat.”

The police department issued a statement via its Facebook page on Aug. 28 announcing that an internal-affairs investigation had been launched into Ozzy’s death.

The statement reads, “After conducting a review of the circumstances surrounding the death of K-9 Ozzy, the department has initiated an internal-affairs investigation to obtain additional facts and information pertaining to the incident. As we continue to mourn the loss of Ozzy, we understand the emotional impact this is having on our community and our employees. We respect everyone’s right to share their opinions, however, we will not provide further comment until the internal affairs investigation has concluded.”

Aside from cracking down on drug trafficking and assisting officers on various calls, Ozzy was also part of a fundraiser the Long Beach Police Historical Society hosted last year.

The organization memorialized Ozzy and another K-9 dog called Abby as stuffed animals in order to be sold at $20 each for a fundraiser that would help create a museum dedicated to Long Beach police history.

“Currently, all of our patrol K-9 handlers are checking their Heat System Controller prior to every shift and will continue to do so as part of their daily protocols,” the police statement read. “We ask that you respect the handler and his family. Our department is mourning Ozzy’s loss as we would with any of our employees, our K-9’s are an indispensable part of our department, and we will continue to view them as partners.”