The Unnecessary Death of a Selfless Hero

By: 
Paul Darrigo

The death and investigation of the hero K-9 Ozzy, demands re-evaluation. Ozzy was killed by being left in a LBPD K-9 vehicle for over 8 hours into the hottest part of the day. Dogs don’t sweat. They cool themselves by panting. All the panting in the world ain’t cooling that puppy down especially a German Shepherd mix who wears a “fur coat” year round. Yet, the DA’s office and Long Beach city prosecutor both conclude, nothing wrong here, move on.

Some Background

Last Oct. 3, the Signal-Tribune reported:

“There are two members of the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) Drug Investigations Section that are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their names are Abby and Ozzy, and they have recovered a combined total of more than $25 million in U.S. currency and narcotics in their time with the LBPD, according to officials.”

“Sgt. Timothy Long told the Signal-Tribune that these two hard-working detectives are motivated solely by the promise of a tennis ball after a long day’s work. That’s because Abby and (Ozzy) are dogs– K-9 detectives – who have been with the department for six and five years, respectively.”

Long said. “Both K-9 detectives respond in state-of-the-art K-9 police vehicles, equipping them with comfort and emergency evacuation alarms meant to protect each K-9 in the event of a vehicle emergency.

In the article, Detective Thue said, “Ozzy is trained to detect the odor of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. Once I was given the Ozzy, I went through six weeks of training with Ozzy and then was certified. Since then, Ozzy and I have certified every year.”

We at CHULA (Citizens for a Humane Los Angeles) get that dogs and their handlers are highly trained. With all this training and highly sophisticated K-9 protection equipment, 5 years of routinely working together, traveling between home and work, on Aug. 14, 2019 Detective Thue allegedly arrived home at 6:30 a.m. and went to bed. At 2:20 p.m. he awakens to find Ozzy missing.

Ozzy is found dead. Left to die from heat exhaustion in a vehicle designed to prevent this kind of death. Authorities chalked it up to a tragic mistake. No criminal charges filed

When Whitney, one of our organizations researchers, asked the Deputy DA Kimberly Abourezk for an explanation, Aug. 14, 2020, at 9:04 a.m., she responded in an email:

“The difference between this case and others is that this was an accident, a tragic misfortune. He didn’t go shopping to the mall, the beach or grocery store and intentionally leave his dog in the car. If he had, then I could prove gross negligence. Gross negligence is needed for a prosecution. He was negligent, but unfortunately the law does not allow us to prosecute for mere negligence on these cases. All possible filings PC 579(b) felony/misdemeanor, 597.1 misdemeanor and 597.7 infraction/misdemeanor require gross negligence.”

To argue if this is criminal or civil certainly has merit, but this is a LBPD highly trained K-9, handled by a highly competent (or not) K-9 detective under the service of the Police Department, which raises the stakes. Ms. Abourezk statements are contrary to the facts.

Abourezk’s DA Charge Evaluation sheet states:

“He (Thue) attributed mistakenly leaving Ozzy in the police vehicle to work-related exhaustion … that the safety device AceK-9 heat module, a safety device that would alert the owner to dangerous conditions but … the device only had one setting which was disabled when the vehicle’s engine is turned of”

In an email sent to DDA Abourezk, she was informed that “the AceK-9 system purchased and used by the LBPD has many features including the ability to configure it so that the alarm technology is active when the vehicle is shut off.”

In that email, the question was asked: “did the LBPD or the DA’s investigation include that information when submitting the case for your review and filing decision?”

To date, the DA’s office has not responded.

The charge evaluation report also states:

“A person acts with criminal negligence when: he or she acts in a reckless way that is a gross departure from the way an ordinarily careful person would act in the same position…leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle through mistake is insufficient to meet this criteria…”

It’s determined Ozzy’s death was unintentional, the equipment was set up incorrectly and that doesn’t rise to the level of the PC code for gross negligence. It is judged by how an ordinarily careful person would act in the same position. We think Detective Thue is not an ordinary person. He is a highly trained K-9 detective with a duty to his partner and rises above the status of an ordinarily caring person.

The Penal Codes State

PC 597(a-b): Every person who... subjects any animal to needless suffering, or inflicts unnecessary cruelty upon the animal, or in any manner abuses any animal, or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, or who drives, rides, or otherwise uses the animal when unfit for labor, is, for each offense, guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d)

PC 597(d): A violation of subdivision (a), (b), or (c) is punishable as a felony.

PC 597.7(a) A person shall not leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.

The Equipment: AceK9 and AceWatchDog

I called AceK9 and spoke to one of their technicians, tech to tech and learned that every K-9 vehicle is equipped with AceK9 hardware and sensors. The assigned officer is trained to use it as well as the interactive cell phone application called AceWatchDog. Even with the car turned off, the software was still not programmed to be in switched off mode. Switched off mode keeps all the heat sensors and alarms active. The horn would have beeped, the lights would start flashing and text messages would have been sent to all the people the officer programs in his cell phone app dashboard to be alerted.

Ozzy would be alive.

What We Don’t Know

Was the DA given all the information? Did she ask for it?

Did they check the GPS on Thue’s car to confirm his location?

Was the DDA informed of how AceK-9 works with all its features?

Did they give Detective Thue a blood alcohol test?

Did anyone corroborate Thue’s story, including his wife?

Why didn’t Thue bring Ozzy to an emergency vet clinic instead taking him in the house?

If Thue did go home at 6:30 a.m., why didn’t anyone in his family, wife, kids, notice the dog in the car, all day?

Does it rise to the level of truly criminal filings? In my judgment the answer is yes. The actions and responsibilities of Thue go beyond that of an ordinary person. The facts highlighted in this email and the Charge Evaluation sheet slants to protective privileges. It really is tragic. Does someone really want to file criminal charges on an officer for something like this?

All the facts and the difference between an average person and a highly trained person is the key.

The Facts

Officer Thue did leave the police dog in the car. He closed the door, vacated the vehicle and went somewhere. It’s irrelevant where he goes. The PC does not segregate “tragic misfortune” to a normal act.

He did prove gross negligence because of his training and position. He is held to a higher standard. His training proves he knew the dangers and he is above the ordinarily careful person criteria.

Officer Thue downloaded the AceWatchDog software for his cell phone after the incident, demonstrating knowledge of the neglect and demonstrating conduct unbecoming aka CYA. It was highly NEGLIGENT and incompetent not to have been using the AceWatchDog software.

DDA Kimberly Abourezk falsely states the system does not work when the key is turned off. It does when it’s programmed to.

Failure to properly train staff and implement a highly functional system like AceK9, which is idiot proof, is on the K-9 Unit management.

Assistant Chief Wally Hebish and Deputy Chief Michael Lewis, who heads the K-9 Unit, has a lot to answer for with such inept training and administration of the AceK9 system.

In my judgment, the DA should release the investigation reports so we can understand what DDA Abourezk was told and what she was not told, in terms of completeness, that led her to decline criminal charges and chalk it up to a tragic mistake.

The public is entitled to know more than the authorities shared, so we can avoid other’s dying needlessly. Ozzy deserves it.

Paul Darrigo is president of CHULA – Citizens for a Humane Los Angeles and a senior I.T. specialist.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/773416409436730/

Videos for your review

Take a look at this video to see how dangerous it is to leave someone or thing in the car: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/video/body-hot-car-56204799?cid=share_face...

This video gives an excellent demonstration of the alarm system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soD2ec2v-i4

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Comments

I believe Long Beach Police Department's history of recently killing four of their K-9s is relevant and should have been considered as evidence of continued gross negligence. Two K-9s have died in LBPD police cars from heat exhaustion and two K-9s have been shot and killed by LBPD officers. A citizen is charged with murder of an officer if he kills a K-9 while under attack. Meanwhile, LBPD officers can kill their K-9s with impunity. How many more LBPD K-9s have to die before LBPD is held accountable for their gross negligence?

LB police dept does not deserve the privilege of having a K-9 partnership. Officer Thue is a glaring example of how poorly the partnership is monitored. Why didn't he have the safety alert system downloaded to his cell phone? Does the leadership just assume that all of the officers will comply? Why do police have different standards of conduct from the ordinary citizen. Why is it ok for police to commit a crime and have it excused? Why does the police leadership cover up? Why isn't there more outrage from Long Beach citizens.

Officer Thue should be held accountable for the death of his partner Ozzy. His neglect is obvious by the fact that he never downloaded the safety alert system to his phone that could have saved Ozzy's life. Why is it that the police are held to a different standard than ordinary citizens. Why is it the the police can commit a crime and it is covered up immediately by the dept. LB police dept should not even have a K-9 service. They do not deserve or merit the privilege.

The LBPD is a criminal organization that is helped in covering up criminal acts by the city attorney office and the city council. This is a straight coverup by all involved. COP Luna is responsible for allowing this criminal behavior, why would he hold his officers accountable if no one holds him accountable. The LBPOA is in control of the department and the city.. Follow the money. The city of LB and its PD has a history of corruption and no one cares. 90% of LB citizens are all cowardly sheep. The LBPD is laughing at us SMH.

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