Long Beach police continue to investigate the heat- related death of a police dog who was found alone last month inside a department-issued vehicle, but some activists aren't content to wait for the results and are calling for an independent probe.
A small group of demonstrators have gathered in front of Long Beach Police Department headquarters for the last two Saturdays to demand justice for Ozzy, who was found dead by his handler at about 3:40 p.m. on Aug. 14, a day when the high in Long Beach reached 89 degrees.
Some of the same animal rights advocates also sent a letter to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey last week asking for a criminal investigation.
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The letter, a copy of which was obtained by City News Service, states in part:
"After much research, we fully understand that an internal investigation (by Long Beach police) may result in this story being hidden as a personnel matter and forgotten. But we believe that Ozzy was an officer of the law and deserves the respect that any human officer would receive."
On Aug. 28, the LBPD said an investigation into the death was being conducted by the department's Internal Affairs division.
"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,'' the department posted in its Facebook page. "As we continue to mourn the loss of Ozzie, 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."
Police said earlier they believe the dog's death might have involved malfunctioning equipment.
"The #LBPD is extremely saddened to announce the death of K-9 Ozzy," the LBPD tweeted on Aug. 23. "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."
"A local veterinarian examined Ozzy and the preliminary results determined the cause of death was heat-related,'' LBPD spokeswoman Shaunna Dandoy said.
According to the Long Beach Post, Ozzy was in a department-issued vehicle equipped for K-9 officers, and part of that special equipment is a cooling system that is not supposed to shut off unless it is manually disabled. In addition, handlers have apps on their phones that are supposed to alert them if their cars get too hot, according to an LBPD spokesperson.
"At this time, we believe this alert may not have been working,'' police said.
While police try to figure out exactly what happened, K-9 handlers have been told to make sure the cooling systems in their cars are working before every shift, according to the department.
Ozzy, who was part Belgian Malinois and part German Shepherd, worked in drug investigations and had been on the force more than five years.
Ozzy is not the only LBPD K-9 to die suddenly in the last few years. In 2016, the K-9 Credo was killed by friendly fire while officers were trying to detain a knife-wielding man named Barry Prak, who was also killed by the gunfire, according to authorities.