Say it ain't so, Sergeant!
Richard Belzer, who has been with Law & Order: SVU since the very beginning, will be leaving the NBC drama series, E! News confirms.
Belzer's character, Sergeant Munch, is retiring from the NYPD in next week's episode, and yes, there will be a retirement party. Shots all around! Not gun shots. The other kind.
A rep for SVU tells us that while there are no immediate plans for Belzer to return, his character's exit will definitely leave the door open for him to return to work with the SVU squad in the future.
Last May, Belzer told The Huffington Post that he had no plans to leave SVU at the time.
"I'd be a fool to say I didn't want to do it anymore and I'm certainly not bored with the character because the writing is so good," he said to the site. "[Munch is] very close to how I would be if I were in that situation, so it's a dream."
The Oct. 16 episode, titled "Wonderland Story", will not only serve as a farewell to Belzer, but will also feature a mystery involving one of Benson's (Mariska Hargitay) former rape cases. Sarah Walsh (guest star Sofia Vassilieva) believes she was attacked after a night of partying and goes to Olivia to ensure it doesn't happen again. The case leads the SVU team to a smooth-talking cyber mogul who is known to prey on vulnerable women and bribe them to keep silent.
Belzer, who has also been on The X Files, Arrested Development, The Wire and the original Law & Order, has appeared in over 450 episodes as John Munch.
Law & Order: SVU airs Wednesday nights on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)