The Stockton Police department is in mourning after losing one of their K9s to what may have been heat exhaustion.
Officers said Nitro, a three-year-old Dutch Shepherd who has been with the department for about two years, was left in a police car.
According to officers, there are safety mechanisms in place just in case the air conditioning dies — a fan is supposed to kick on and there’s some water for the dog, but something went wrong.
“Anytime you lose one of your K9s, you’ve lost a family member here,” Stockton Police Officer Joe Silva said.
Nitro’s career was filled with lots of ups like showcasing his “bite” to the community. And some downs. In January, Nitro was involved in a controversial and deadly officer-involved shooting.
Investigators said Matautu Nuu hit Nitro with a hammer. The dog had to undergo a blood transfusion. Nuu died in the incident.
Police dogs such as Nitro face danger every day, and on Tuesday afternoon, it was the heat that may have claimed the Dutch Shepherd’s life.
“Short moment of time in a hot car really changes the physiology and it causes a lot of complications,” Dr. John Kim, a Stockton veterinarian said.
The Stockton Police Department said Nitro’s handler was running after a suspect with multiple warrants. Nitro was left in the car, as per protocol.
Investigators said the officer left the AC running, but something went wrong.
“Right now, the preliminary investigation is revealing that the air conditioner was on, but then it stopped working properly,” Silva said.
Police officers with K9s are usually equipped with squad cars that have water, a backup fan and a system to alert the handler when the car overheats, Silva said.
However, they did not say if the handler received the alert, but they did say that within 15 minutes, the officer and Nitro were on their way to get help.
“Our canine was rushed to a nearby veterinarian clinic and unfortunately died from his injuries,” Silva said.
On Wednesday, a grieving police department looked into why the AC failed and what policies may need to be revised.
“So we’re trying to figure out exactly what we can do to prevent something like this from happening again. And that means going back, reevaluating policies and procedures,” Silva said.