Richard Belzer Leaving 'Law & Order: SVU' After 15 Seasons

Actor Richard Belzer is leaving "Law & Order: SVU" after 15 seasons and playing the character John Munch for over 20 years. His final episode of "SVU" will air on NBC on October 16.

Munch turned in his retirement papers in the latest episode of "SVU" and next week's will feature his retirement party. However, it won't be the last that fans will see of Belzer, as he is expected to make several recurring appearances on the popular series.

Munch got his start on "Homicide: Life on the Street" in 1993 and then starred on "The X-Files," "The Beat," "Arrested Development," "The Wire," the original "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Trial By Jury."

Belzer's timing is ironic given that he told the Huffington Post he had no plans of retiring any time soon back in May.

"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 told the Post. "He's very close to how I would be if I were in that situation, so it's a dream. Our show reverberates throughout the community… it's more than a television show. It meets the needs of the audience as a dramatic series, but also affects the community, which is just a great plus for us."

Fans have already reacted with shock and sadness that Belzer is leaving the series for good.

"What?! @MRbelzer is leaving #SVU?! I'm heartbroken!!! Fond memories…" Wendy Brandes tweeted.

"NO NO NO THIS CAN'T HAPPEN SO EARLY IN THE SEASON. I'm going to be a mess next week. #SVU-ers are sure gonna miss @MRbelzer," added Kristin D.

Belzer has other projects to keep him busy and to keep fans satisfied, though. He is the author of "Hit List," which is available now, and also hosts "Richard Belzer's Conversation" on the Intelligent Channel, which airs on YouTube. Belzer is also still doing stand-up comedy from time to time.