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Lightning Kills Florida Police K-9 Inside Kennel

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- The Beach Police Department has lost one of its K-9 officers after a deadly lightning strike Sunday night.

K-9 officer Argo was found motionless in his kennel behind a Firenzo Avenue residence Sunday evening about 6:30 p.m. after a thunderstorm passed through Bay County. Panama City Beach police said it appeared Argo had been struck by lightning before the daughter of his longtime handler, PCBPD Cpl. Jason Gleason, found the K-9 dead.

Police reported Argo, a Belgian Malinois similar to a German shepherd, had been left in the kennel during the storm because Gleason was en route to a training session. Argo had most of the hair missing from his right front leg above the paw, possibly singed from the lightning strike, according to the PCBPD incident report.

Gleason declined to comment on the incident.

"He is still having a hard time," Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said.

Argo replaced Gleason's former K-9 partner after the former went missing in July of 2009. Poncho, also a Belgian Malinois, was last seen tracking three burglary suspects into the woods near Arnold High School. The three were later arrested, but Poncho never emerged and was presumed dead.

A portion of Frank Brown Park was dedicated to Poncho following the incident, calling the fenced in area behind a flagpole, Poncho's Park.

Argo served the police department for about five years under Gleason. He acquired four national certifications for K-9 officers. During his time with the force, Argo helped seize about $25,000 worth of illegal narcotics, four vehicles and made several felony arrests. He recently had been instrumental in a burglary case, Whitman added.

Gleason took Argo to a doctor in Fountain until arrangements are made for his remains.

Police had not made immediate plans for a memorial service as of Monday afternoon.

Copyright 2014 - The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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