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August 4

He served his city and died protecting his country. James McNaughton, a city cop and Army Reserves staff sergeant, was gunned down Tuesday near Baghdad - becoming the first of New York's Finest killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

You Can;t Get Any More American

City cop killed in Iraq

These stories were reported by: MAKI BECKER, PETE DONOHUE, TAMER EL-GHOBASHY, ALISON GENDAR, MELISSA GRACE, JONATHAN LEMIRE, ADAM LISBERG, JOE MAHONEY, JOSE MARTINEZ and TONY SCLAFANI They were written by: MAKI BECKER

He served his city and died protecting his country.

James McNaughton, a city cop and Army Reserves staff sergeant, was gunned down Tuesday near Baghdad - becoming the first of New York's Finest killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

James McNaughton
James McNaughton
William and Michele McNaughton, parents of slain cop James McNaughton, comfort each other outside their home in Centereach, L.I., yesterday.
William and Michele McNaughton, parents of slain cop James McNaughton, comfort each other outside their home in Centereach, L.I., yesterday.
James McNaughton in group picture with other officer-soldiers from city.
James McNaughton in group picture with other officer-soldiers from city.

"He believed in what he was doing," said his devastated father, William McNaughton, a recently retired NYPD cop. "I'm proud of what he's done.

"To me, he's a hero."

At dusk Tuesday, three uniformed officers pulled up in front of the Centereach, L.I., home where James McNaughton was raised. William McNaughton said he knew immediately that something terrible had happened to his 27-year-old son, a four-year NYPD veteran.

"You know right away," he said, tears welling in his eyes. "That's something I won't forget for the rest of my life."

James McNaughton, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserves' 306th Military Police Battalion, was felled by sniper fire while he was guarding prisoners from a tower at Camp Victory, a sprawling military base near Baghdad's airport.

Mayor Bloomberg, who called McNaughton's family to offer his condolences, broke the tragic news to the city that "we have lost one of our Finest in Iraq."

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly noted McNaughton's deep roots in the NYPD - his father retired from the force last month, and his stepmother and fiancée are on the force.

The young Queens man "embodied the motto of the NYPD: Fidelis Ad Mortem, faithful until death," Kelly said.

Yesterday, in Manhattan's Transit District 2 offices, where McNaughton had worked the midnight shift patrolling the subways, purple-and-black bunting was put up to signal the sad loss.

NYPD Chief of Queens Detectives Louis Croce, the former commanding officer of the Transit Bureau, remembered McNaughton as a "young lad" with a passion for serving the public.

"He went over there without any fears or trepidations, whatsoever," Croce said. "He's a symbol of how good these guys really are."

As mourners streamed in and out of the McNaughtons' split-level ranch home, his father proudly shared that his son had been born in West Point, N.Y., while he was in the Army.

"You can't get any more American than that," he said.

James McNaughton was raised in Centereach and was a member of Centereach High School's wrestling team.

He joined the Army after he graduated, his father said, and became a military police officer.

"So he was a cop at 18 years old," the father said, as the family's American flag fluttered at half-staff in front of their home. "He's been carrying a gun since he was 18."

After his enlistment with the Army was over, he signed up with the reserves and entered the Police Academy in 2001 - and was among the first class to graduate after 9/11.

McNaughton was called up from the reserves for the first time in October 2002 and served a tour in the U.S. He shipped out to Iraq just after Christmas last year.

His stepmother, Michele McNaughton, said she didn't worry about James. "Never," she said. "It's what he believed in."

Gov. Pataki and Bloomberg indicated that McNaughton's family would receive his full police pension and death benefits.

The provision was made law earlier this year following the 2004 death of FDNY Firefighter Christian Engeldrum, a member of the Army National Guard's Fighting 69th Infantry Regiment, in Iraq.

See also "Just got engaged to fellow officer"