Newsday
August 4, 2005

NYC police officer killed in Iraq

BY DENISA R. SUPERVILLE, ARNOLD ABRAMS and ROCCO PARASCANDOLA STAFF WRITERS

  U.S. Army soldier James McNaughton, in his 1996 boot camp photo, courtesy of his father, William McNaughton, at their home in Centereach, New York, on Wednesday, August 3, 2005, the day James was killed in Iraq.
  U.S. Army soldier James McNaughton, in his 1996 boot camp photo, courtesy of his father, William McNaughton, at their home in Centereach, New York, on Wednesday, August 3, 2005, the day James was killed in Iraq. (Photo by Bridget O'Brien)
  New York City Police Officer James McNaughton, who was killed in Iraq
  New York City Police Officer James McNaughton, who was killed in Iraq (Photo from Handout)
  Army Reserve Officer James McNaughton, right, on the day of his graduation from the police academy in 2001 with his father, now-retired officer William McNaughton. Photo courtesy of William McNaughton at their home in Centereach, New York, on Wednesday, August 3, 2005, the day James was killed in Iraq.
  Army Reserve Officer James McNaughton, right, on the day of his graduation from the police academy in 2001 with his father, now-retired officer William McNaughton. Photo courtesy of William McNaughton at their home in Centereach, New York, on Wednesday, August 3, 2005, the day James was killed in Iraq. (Photo by Bridget O'Brien)

A young city cop known for his fervent patriotism was gunned down in Iraq by a sniper, the first NYPD officer slain during the war, police said Wednesday.

News of the tragedy, which happened Tuesday, stunned Officer James McNaughton's colleagues at Transit District 2 in lower Manhattan.

It was there the 27-year-old cop -- from the first Police Academy class to graduate after the Sept. 11 terror attack -- worked the midnight shift, often riding the subway lines past Ground Zero.

And it was there, according to a colleague, he impressed others with his love of America.

"His love of the military was definitely fueled by his love of the American way of life, and by 9/11," said Officer Brian Kenny, the union delegate for Transit District 2. "When he spoke about going over there, someone said, 'It's the most dangerous place in the world right now.'

"That didn't bother him. He said, 'That's where I'm going."'

McNaughton, posted in a tower at Camp Victory near Baghdad, was felled by a single bullet, police said. He was guarding prisoners there.

McNaughton, who lived in Centereach, comes from a family of cops. His father, William, recently retired from the Transit Bureau, and his stepmother, Michele, is still on the force, also assigned to transit. His fiancee, Officer Lilliana Paredes, works in the Ninth Precinct. His mother, Cho, and brother Ryan, 16, live in Holbrook.

"Military duty and police work were probably in his blood," McNaughton's father, 50, said outside the family's Centereach home.

The father said he knew from the moment police pulled up in front of his home that his son had been killed.

Talk of his son brought him back to the day, some 10 years ago, when he grounded James for breaking curfew, only to learn later that the punishment was unjust. James had insisted on driving friends home who had been drinking at a party.

"And that's the kind of person he was," the father said. "He was good, he was solid, and he took his punishment -- which obviously was undeserved -- without a whimper."

Michele, meanwhile, had been concerned about him since the very moment James graduated from Centereach High School in 1996 and announced his plans to join the Army.

"I was worried exactly about what happened -- he could be killed," Michele, 38, said tearfully. "But to James' credit, he did not laugh or blow me off. He listened politely and did not argue.

"But he already had made up his mind, and once I realized that, I supported him fully."

The Department of Defense did not immediately release information about McNaughton's death, but his family said McNaughton, a staff sergeant in the Army Reserves, had been assigned to a military police battalion at Camp Victory after serving at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

McNaughton, who had already served a tour of duty stateside, had volunteered to serve in Iraq last fall, his colleagues said.

The current issue of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association magazine shows a smiling McNaughton in Iraq, clad in his military fatigues and an NYPD hat. He is holding the American flag in a photo with eight other cops, including one from the Port Authority.

Capt. Thomas Ponella, commanding officer of Transit District 2, said news of McNaughton's death hit the unit hard, with several cops coming in on their day off to grieve with colleagues.

"It's just such a shock for everybody here," Ponella said. "It's tough right now, because it's part of our family. Jimmy was a good guy, a nice guy, a dedicated police officer and well liked by everybody. He was protecting us, our country, and he gave his life for the country.

"We're proud of him."

Until Sunday, the most notable death among city workers pulled from their jobs to fight in Iraq was that of Firefighter Chris Engeldrum, who was killed by a roadside bomb last year.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said McNaughton "embodied the motto of the NYPD, fidelis ad mortem, faithful until death."

"We will miss him and honor him always," Kelly said.