CELINA — A Mercer County police dog that was left in an unattended sheriff’s cruiser for hours died Wednesday of heat stroke, the dog’s necropsy showed.
Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Fortkamp discovered the dog, Zak, dead in his car around 1 p.m. Wednesday after he went in the office to work on a traffic reconstruction project. He left Zak in the car without the engine running for hours.
Fortkamp has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Sheriff Jeff Grey said Friday that his office has completed its investigation. It has been turned over to the county prosecutor and the city law director to determine what, if any, charges should be filed.
Grey expects an announcement of Fortkamp’s fate will be made Monday morning along with details of the investigation.
“When I read the law, I don’t see a crime. I see a tragedy. I don’t see a crime,” Grey said. “But I’m sending it to the lawyers so they can look at it because we’re going to be transparent.”
Grey said the police dogs are only supposed to be left in the car only when its air-conditioning is running, otherwise, they are to be taken out of the vehicle. He said there are alarms which deputies can set that will make officers were aware if the temperature in the car gets too hot.
“I don’t know what temperature it’s set at,” Grey said about the alarm, “but it’s set for a K-9 where if the temperature gets so high, it sets off a pager for the handler, the horn goes off on the car, the headlights flash, the windows go down, and the fans go on.”
He was unsure whether Fortkamp failed to set the alarm or the alarm malfunctioned.
When Fortkamp found the unresponsive dog, he rushed the animal to Coldwater Animal Clinic to see if the K-9 could be saved. While the dog’s necropsy showed it died of a heat stroke, the dog did have a pre-existing heart condition in which the sheriff’s office was aware. That condition may have been aggravated by the temperature inside the car, but Grey said the veterinarian who performed the necropsy on Zak said even a healthy dog could not have survived the intense temperatures inside the car.
Zak was 3-years-old.
“This happened. I don’t like that this happened. The people need to know how it happened, why it happened and what we’re doing about it,” Grey said.
Fortkamp’s personnel file showed he had two reprimands, both deemed minor.
Fortkamp was involved in a winter wreck of his patrol car and a reprimand for staying in the office too long. All of the other things in his file were notes of thanks from the public and positive evaluations.
“I can say that Chad is a good deputy. I’m not making an excuse for what happened,” Grey said. “He’s worked here for 12 years and I can honestly say he’s good at his job.”
Grey said at this point, the sheriff’s office plans on suspending the K-9 program because they have lost two dogs in the last three years. In 2010, K-9 Bleck died of an intestinal obstruction when Zak was purchased for $1,500, Grey said.