Law & Order: SVU Says Goodbye to Key Cast Member

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David Letterman may have been the most famous name to sign off for good last night.

But he wasn't the only one.

In an unexpected development, Law & Order: SVU wrapped up Season 16 by bidding farewell to Danny Pino, as a near-death experience prompted his character to decide on a major life change:

Detective Nick Amaro told Olivia Benson that he was leaving the NYPD and relocating to the West Coast to be near his family.

Law & Order: SVU Scene

Show sources have confirmed that this is it for Pino; he will not be featured next season as a series regular.

“It seemed to be, in a strange way, right for Amaro to start fresh somewhere else,” showrunner Warren Leight told TV Guide.

"It’s not to say any of us enjoys it, but it seems like that’s where the story was going and I think all of the actors felt like the exit was honored."

Pino joined Law & Order: SVU on Season 13, following the departure of Christopher Meloni.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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