Columbia, SC – Columbia Police K9 Turbo died in the line of duty of a "heat-related work injury" on July 28, two days after he was left alone in a patrol vehicle for eight hours while his handler attended a training.
“I guess the simplest way for me to start is to acknowledge that we made some mistakes,” Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said during a press conference on Aug. 23, The State reported.
The incident occurred on July 26, while Columbia Police Officer David Hurt was attending an active shooter training at C.A. Johnson High School.
Before he went into the training, Officer Hurt parked his patrol vehicle in the shade, opened the vehicle’s back windows, and turned the air conditioning on, Chief Holbrook explained.
Like other K9 handlers at the training, officer left his partner, K9 Turbo, in the vehicle due to the loud noises and crowds that would be present inside the school, WXIN reported.
For unknown reasons, Officer Hurt deactivated the vehicle’s heat alarm, which would have caused a horn and siren to go off and an on-person alarm to be activated if the vehicle reached a certain temperature, according to The State.
“He didn’t give any logical reason for why he deactivated the heat alarm,” Holbrook said.
While other K9 handlers checked on their partners throughout the day, Officer Hurt did not, the chief said.
Officer Hurt did ask another officer to check on K9 Turbo at approximately 11:30 a.m., and the officer later reported back that the K9 was doing fine, The State reported.
According to WXIN, the temperature in Columbus reached 94 degrees Fahrenheit that day.
When Officer Hurt returned to his patrol vehicle at 3:30 p.m., he noticed that K9 Turbo was having difficultly standing and was panting heavily while foaming at the mouth, The State reported.
He immediately rushed K9 Turbo to a veterinarian, where he was diagnosed with organ failure.
Two days later, K9 Turbo was euthanized following the “heat-related work injury,” Chief Holbrook said.
In the wake of K9 Turbo’s death, Officer Hurt was suspended from the department’s bomb squad for six months, and was removed as a K9 officer.
He was also suspended without pay for a period of five days.
“Officer Hurt was very emotionally attached,” Chief Holbrook said, according to The State. “This is not something that just goes away. This is something he’ll live with.”
He said that Officer Hurt and his family were “heartbroken” over the incident, WXIN reported.
“It’s like losing a partner or a family member,” the chief said. “It is devastating.”
The investigation into K9 Turbo’s death was reviewed by the 5th Circuit solicitor’s office and the State Law Enforcement Division, the chief said.
The review concluded there was no criminal intent, and Officer Hurt will not face charges in connection with the K9’s death.
Chief Holbrook said the department has implemented changes to help ensure the safety of K9s left in patrol vehicles in the future.
Handlers are now prohibited from deactivating vehicle heat alarms, and must check on their K9 partners every hour. The department is also creating a standardized temperature for the heat alarms in each K9 vehicle, he said.
K9 Turbo, a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever, specialized in explosive detection.
He served with the Columbus Police Department for seven months, and cost the agency approximately $25,000, Chief Holbrook said.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Columbia Police Department in the loss of K9 Turbo.