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Officer Kitelinger with K9 Zander

Burlington Police Officer Tanner Kitelinger poses with K-9 Zander. They began patrol together on May 7. Kitelinger died Friday from medical issues.

BURLINGTON — The Burlington community on Friday experienced its second unexpected and untimely loss of life in less than a month, this time a young Burlington police officer who died from medical issues.

In a news release issued Friday afternoon, Burlington Police Chief Mark Anderson announced the unexpected death of Officer Tanner Kitelinger that morning. He was 27.

Kitelinger’s cause of death was likely related to issues as a result of diabetes, with which he was diagnosed at age 12, according to the department.

“Officer Kitelinger will be greatly missed,” Anderson said in the release.

Kitelinger had just started patrolling with a K-9 partner, Zander, on May 7, according to Anderson.

Kitelinger was a 2012 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. From there, he attended Blackhawk Technical College Police Academy in Janesville and graduated in 2014 before being hired at the Burlington Police Department in March 2015.

Kitelinger was born in Beloit and went to Beloit High School, Anderson said.

Mayor Jeannie Hefty said she was “heartbroken and devastated” by the news. The mayor said she had developed a friendship with Kitelinger as the city’s K-9 program was being reinstated and said he was dedicated to bringing the program back to the city.

Hefty said that Kitelinger kept her up to date on Zander’s training at a facility in Campbellsport, including texting her photos of the dog at work.

The mayor said she was contacted Friday by several city officials during the course of the day to share condolences and grieve the loss of Kitelinger. She said she was working with City Administrator Carina Walters to learn the protocol for having U.S. flags in the city lowered to half staff.

K-9 program in limbo

Hefty said that Anderson has been in contact with personnel at the training facility for advice on what do do in the case of a loss of a handler. The mayor said the K-9 dogs and handlers develop a close working relationship and the dogs stays with their handlers when they are off duty.

“This is a huge commitment; it’s 24-7 with the dog,” Hefty said.

Zander is currently staying temporarily with another officer. Hefty said she is hopeful that another officer on the department will step forward to become Zander’s handler. She said that would be a wonderful tribute to Kitelinger.

“I believe strongly in this program,” Hefty said. “I hope it works with another officer who can step forward with this.”

Another recent tragedy

This death follows another tragedy that struck the Burlington community over Memorial Day weekend, when three young people lost their lives in a car crash in nearby Lyons.

Killed in the May 28 crash were: Jason Davis, 17, the driver, a junior at Burlington High School; Landen Brown, 20, the front passenger, a 2015 BHS graduate; and Hunter Morby, 17, the rear passenger, also a BHS junior.

“I don’t think we were over that and this one (Kitelinger’s death) comes into play,” the mayor said.

This story has been corrected since publication to reflect the correct spelling of City Administrator Carina Walters' name.

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