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K-9 officer is cleared in dog's death

Prompted by the death last month of police dog Flash, the Sheriff's Office has ordered better heat alarms for its K-9 unit cruisers.

The $500 "hot dog" alarm will page deputies, activate the car's overhead lights, sound an alarm and lower the car windows if it gets too hot inside.

Flash was found close to death in his handler's patrol car after both the air conditioning and the heat alarm malfunctioned.

Flash had been left for almost three hours in the idling car, which is routine for K-9 dogs, while Cpl. Brian Brosnan attended a training seminar at the county jail June 25.

"It was a tough lesson for all of us, emotionally and professionally," Sheriff's Maj. Richard Ortiz said. "We want to do everything we can to protect these animals."

The announcement Monday coincided with the department's release of an investigative report that found Flash's death was caused by mechanical failure.

The report cleared Brosnan of negligence but noted he should have exercised "an increased degree of prudence," given the heat and humidity that day.

"It's a terrible tragedy, but who would have thought that the clutch (for the AC) and the alarm fuse would blow at the same time on the same day?" Capt. Charles Troy said.

That's exactly what happened. Brosnan returned to the car after the training class and found Flash in distress. Brosnan could not revive him.

The investigative report concluded that a faulty clutch caused the air conditioning to fail, and a blown fuse caused the heat alarm system to malfunction.

It is not known how or when the fuse blew.

Investigators could find no one in the area of the jail June 25 who had heard the alarm go off. They do know it worked three days before Flash's death, because it sounded in Brosnan's driveway after he forgot to shut the alarm off one night after work.

The alarms in all five K-9 unit cars were installed six months ago. Before that, deputies were expected to check on their animals to be sure there were no problems, Ortiz said.

Now the department is buying much better protection, he said, and the new alarm system should be installed within the next week. The Sheriff's Office also plans to install small fans in the cars and a monitoring system deputies can use to make sure the alarm is working.

No decision has been made whether to replace Flash, a highly decorated K-9 dog who was honored with a nine-gun salute at his burial last month.

It's also not clear whether Brosnan, who has a personnel file thick with commendations, will return to K-9 duty. After Flash's death, Brosnan, 34, took two weeks of vacation.

He had been on administrative duty pending the investigation's completion and is expected to return to patrol duty soon, Ortiz said. Brosnan could not be reached for comment.

"He has experienced some difficulty with this, and we're discussing what he'll do next," Ortiz said. "He may want a change. The bond between dog and handler is very close. This is devastating to him."

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