Police dog burns to death in car fire
MINDEN – Faulty wiring may be to blame for a vehicle fire that claimed the life of a Douglas County drug dog.
“It appears to have started under the hood of the vehicle, near the siren,” said Sgt. Tom Mezzetta of the 2 a.m. Friday fire in which Deputy Rick Koontz’ patrol vehicle burst into flames, with his K9 partner, Jon-Jon, locked inside.
According to Mezzetta, Koontz responded to the Meridian Business Park on the report of a open door alarm about 1:40 a.m.
While Koontz and another deputy with a police dog searched the building, Jon-Jon, a narcotics dog, was left in the back seat of Koontz’ vehicle, per department policy, Mezzetta said.
When Koontz emerged 20 minutes later, his vehicle was engulfed in flames.
“Ignoring the flames, Deputy Koontz tried to open the rear door to allow Jon-Jon to escape, but the door would not open,” Mezzetta said. “(He) then smashed out the rear window, but it was too late.”
Koontz was uninjured.
Mezzetta said Jon-Jon, born Winsom John in 2001, came to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department in 2002. He was immediately assigned to Koontz, a seven-year veteran of the department. Jon-Jon was Koontz’s first working dog, Mezzetta said.
Aside from patrol, Koontz was also assigned as a School Safety Intervention Office. He would regularly visit the schools with the Labrador retriever in tow.
“Jon-Jon quickly became a significant part of those visits. Jon-Jon loved the attention he received from the kids and the students were equally enamored by (him),” said Mezzetta. “Jon-Jon will be missed.”
A memorial for Jon-Jon will be held 3 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Carson Valley Inn in Minden, during a service to recognize officers Dan Nelson and Erik Eissinger who were shot during an incident at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in September. The event is open to the public.
Mezzetta said the investigation into the fire is being conducted by the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
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