A Chandler police dog that died after his handler left him unattended in a hot patrol car was in the vehicle more than 12 hours before being discovered.
Sgt. Tom Lovejoy discovered the body of Bandit, his 5-year-old Belgian Malinois, about 10 p.m. Saturday night. He parked the car at his home about 9:15 a.m. that day after working an extra duty assignment early Saturday morning, police said.
"When he arrived home, (Lovejoy) was out of his routine. And while getting mixed up in everyday stuff, he forgot about the car," said Sgt. Rick Griner, a Chandler police spokesman.
Griner said that shortly after entering his home, Lovejoy was told his teenage son had been in a car accident and the car was totaled.
Griner did not have information on whether Lovejoy's son was injured, but said the car accident may have distracted Lovejoy - head of the department's K-9 unit - and caused him to forget his dog, who would not have normally been with him on the extra duty shift. The decision was made to include the dog on Lovejoy's patrol given several recent high profile incidents, including the Chandler serial rapist case.
A preliminary investigation shows the dog, who was with the department more than four years, died from extreme heat. This incident is under investigation and will be handled internally, Griner said.
Lovejoy, a 15-year veteran, was not put on leave and returned to work Monday. Griner said no disciplinary action has been taken and will not happen unless an investigation determines the actions were reckless or intentional.
"This is his worst punishment right now. He's very emotional," Griner said. "This incident was because of negligence; by accident."
Russ Hess, executive director of the United States Police Canine Association, said an investigation needed to be completed, but added, "there's no excuse. There sure is a lack of judgment there."
Griner said Lovejoy's family is taking Bandit's death hard. The dog lived with the Lovejoys the entire time he was with the department.
While police dogs that die in the line of duty are usually given high-profile funerals, Griner said the department will likely have a private, memorial service for Bandit.
Two other Valley police departments also lost K-9 earlier this year - one in a similar incident.
In March, a Phoenix police dog was rushed to a veterinarian after being left in an unmarked police vehicle without ventilation. Authorities said the car was idling at the time, but the air-conditioning may have malfunctioned.
The handler and clinic employees decided to euthanize Top, a 5-year-old black Labrador, the following day.
The same month the Mesa Police Department had a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois die while the dog was chasing a suspect after the dog was struck by a vehicle on Main Street near Lindsay Road.