Prosecutors now will investigate details of shooting in Beverly
Will seek motive in altercation of officers
BEVERLY - Prosecutors in the shooting of a policeman here, under pressure to provide details about the high-profile case, said yesterday they would investigate “any and all criminal activity’’ that may have precipitated the violent altercation between two veteran officers.
The announcement yesterday afternoon appeared to be a switch from several hours earlier in the day, when Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said investigators had nearly completed their investigation and would not try to identify a motive.
She said there was no need to bring criminal charges against Ken Nagy, a police sergeant in Hamilton who took his own life after shooting Beverly police Officer Jason Lantych in the wrist and leg.
“We prosecute crimes,’’ she said. “We investigate crimes. What is going on in their private life is not for the public to know.’’
But Blodgett’s office later changed course and said investigators would explore the relationship between the two men, who knew each other and had agreed to meet while off duty.
Lantych, 35, remained hospitalized yesterday.
Investigators have not disclosed why the two men met outside a busy shopping plaza late Friday afternoon. But Monahan said they had not found evidence of any criminal activity beyond the shooting.
Investigators are awaiting the results of ballistic tests to determine whether Nagy used his service weapon during the shooting and suicide.
Witnesses told police that Nagy, 43, drove off after shooting Lantych, sparking a manhunt. Around 10:30 p.m., he returned to the shopping plaza in a black sport utility vehicle and minutes later was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head.
The shooting has shaken police officers and residents in the two North Shore towns, many of whom said the public deserves to know what sparked the confrontation.
“Something drove him to do what he did,’’ said Diane Fitzpatrick of Hamilton. Fitzpatrick, 57, said the shooting has fueled widespread speculation in town. “I think it’s really important they tell people what happened,’’ she said.
Timothy Bradl, a defense lawyer and former Suffolk County prosecutor, said that although investigators’ findings may be painful, the public nature of the crime, which he described as an “armed confrontation between sworn law officers,’’ demands answers.
“The public’s right to know what happened here is paramount,’’ he said. “There are too many important concerns.’’
But others thought that the roots of the deadly dispute, although between public employees, should remain private.
“I think it’s none of the public’s business what went on,’’ said Paul Guanci, a city councilor in Beverly. “Out of respect for the families, the DA’s office should do as little as possible with this.’’
Guanci said he has known Lantych for years and described him as a well-liked figure in the community.
Mark Ray, the Beverly police chief, said he visited Lantych yesterday and was able to speak to family, friends, and fellow officers. Ray issued a statement on behalf of the Lantych family that expressed gratitude for an outpouring of support.
“The past 72 hours have been extremely difficult, and we are hopeful that the public acknowledges our right to privacy,’’ the statement said.
Nagy’s wife, Katie, works as an advocate for domestic violence victims through a grant to the Beverly Police Department, prosecutors said. She has two young children.
No one answered the door yesterday afternoon at the Nagys’ home in Rowley. At her parents’ home in Hamilton, a woman answered but declined comment.
A former neighbor, Danielle Thomas, said she had visited Nagy on Sunday.
“She’s very sad,’’ said Thomas, 35. “Her sons [ages 7 and 5] are so young. Ken loved his family so much. Nobody saw this coming.’’
Thomas said Ken Nagy was a friendly, helpful neighbor who sometimes would mow her family’s lawn if her former husband was busy working.
“There was not a bad bone in Ken’s body,’’ she said. “That’s why this is all so shocking.’’
Thomas said she did not know if Katie Nagy knew Lantych and called the Nagys “a great couple.’’
She said Nagy, a devoted father to his two young sons, would often greet her 8-year-old son with a high-five.
“He had a great way with kids, goofing around with them,’’ she said. “My son is very sad about what has happened.’’
Thomas said she watched the news unfold Friday in disbelief. “They said ‘Officer Ken Nagy was armed and dangerous,’ ’’ she recalled. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Something’s not right here. There’s got to be more to this story.’’
A wake for Nagy will be held at the Murphy Funeral Home in Salem Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. A funeral Mass will be said Friday at 11 a.m. at St. James Church in Salem.
Michael Lombardo, Hamilton town manager, said town officials will play no formal role in the service “but we certainly will attend.’’ Russell Stevens, Hamilton’s police chief, will determine the police role.