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Hamilton police mourn death of a fellow officer

By Peter Schworm and Kathy McCabe
Globe Staff / March 1, 2012
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HAMILTON - During nearly two decades, Kenneth Nagy earned a reputation as a respected police officer in this small town. When he applied for a supervisory position last summer, he emerged as the leading choice.

“His investigations were thorough; his reports were well written,’’ recalled Russell Stevens, the town’s police chief. “He was liked by the community.’’

But last Friday, Nagy’s life ended in desperate violence when he opened fire on Jason Lantych, a police officer from nearby Beverly, then turned the gun on himself a few hours later. Lantych, 36, remains hospitalized as he recovers from wounds to his thigh and wrist.

Officials in both departments said yesterday they would conduct internal investigations into the shooting and suicide, which have left the two communities in search of answers.

Yet, some who knew Nagy - including the chaplain for the Hamilton department, who had known Nagy for 17 years - said the officer showed no obvious signs of trouble.

“He was always very upbeat,’’ said the Rev. Louis Bourgeois. “I am sure, in his private life, he had his moments. But when he was at work, he was always gentlemanly.’’

Bourgeois, who married the Nagys eight years ago and baptized their two sons, said he met with Katherine Nagy earlier this week and said she was handling things as well as could be expected. “Under the circumstances, she’s doing all right,’’ he said. “She’s a woman of faith.’’

Hamilton police will begin their investigation after Nagy’s funeral Friday.

“We will do our own investigation to be sure there was no violation of our policies and procedures,’’ Stevens said.

In Beverly, police described the internal inquiry as standard procedure.

“We review any kind of incident like this involving one of our officers,’’ said David Costa, an officer in the department.

Authorities say the men knew each other and had arranged to meet. But officials have not discussed potential motives. The Essex district attorney’s office is investigating the shooting with an eye on the relationship between Lantych and Katherine Nagy, a domestic violence advocate at the Beverly Police Department who had worked on cases with Lantych, authorities say.

Nagy, 43, fled after shooting Lantych and was missing for almost five hours before driving back to the scene. Police say he was not in touch with authorities during that time.

Yesterday, Beverly police denied a request for 911 recordings from the shooting, saying they are evidence in the investigation.

Nagy became the midnight shift commander in a promotion last July. He supervised one or two officers and went on patrol. Stevens, the chief for the past three years, said Nagy was well regarded in town.

“I’ve always received positive comments from people whom he had dealings with,’’ he said.

Stevens said Nagy showed no signs of trouble before the shooting.

“There was no sign, or any indication that anything was wrong with Kenny,’’ he said. “He was very professional. He came to work and did his job and did it well.’’

Nagy left a suicide note, but Stevens declined to describe its contents or to comment on the investigation.

Bourgeois said he hopes the funeral will bring some comfort to Nagy’s family.

“We’re going to make it as devotional and meaningful and comforting as we can to his wife, family, and relatives,’’ he said.

Hamilton officers will not play a formal role at the funeral, but, as tradition holds, plan to attend his wake as a group.

“This is a sad time for the Hamilton Police Department,’’ Stevens said. “We feel for the Lantych family. We feel for the Nagy family. There will have to be a healing process for us.’’

Police have hung black bunting over the station’s doorway and have been wearing black strips over their badges as symbols of mourning.

Messages of condolence have poured into the station since Nagy’s death, many recalling his service.

“He was an important part of the community. He was here for nearly 20 years,’’ Stevens said. “In a small town like Hamilton, police officers play a big role.’’

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.

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