Correctional Officer Gilbert Cortez and K-9 "Mattie," a Belgian Malinois, were traveling ahead of four separate K-9 teams southbound on State Highway 79 en route to a search of La Cima Fire Camp. The cause of the vehicle rollover was under investigation. No one else was involved or injured.
Cortez began working for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in 1990, serving at the California Institution for Men, Calipatria State Prison and the California Rehabilitation Center as part of the Southern Regional K-9 Unit. He is survived by his wife, their two children and his parents.
"Mattie" started service with Cortez in 2011 and was certified to search for contraband and narcotics. CDCR's K-9 program uses dogs and skilled handlers to detect cellphones and drugs in prisons.