New York Post
August 24, 2005

FINEST FALLS IN IRAQ

By MICHAEL WHITE and BILL SANDERSON

An NYPD officer pulling guard duty in a Baghdad prison watchtower became the first of New York's Finest felled in the Iraq war when a sniper's bullet struck him in the head, officials said yesterday.

Army Staff Sgt. James McNaughton, 27, who died Tuesday, was from a police family — his fiancé and his stepmom are cops, and his father retired from the Police Department last month.

His father, William McNaughton, said their last phone conversation Monday was ordinary father-and-son chitchat, about Iraq's scorching summer heat and military duty.

"He said he can't wait for the weather to break so it cools down," remembered McNaughton, whose son was serving in the Army Reserves. "Everything was quiet, they were getting ready to do a mission . . . He was supposed to be coming back home in December."

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly offered condolences.

"As the first New York City police officer to be killed in action in Iraq, he embodied the motto of the NYPD — Fidelis ad Mortem, faithful until death," Kelly said.

McNaughton, one of 273 NYPD cops on active military duty, served in the Transit Bureau — just like his dad and his stepmom, Michelle McNaughton.

His fiancée, Liliana Paredes, is an officer with the 9th Precinct in the East Village. He proposed to her in June, when he was home on a 15-day leave.

"He was a great marksman. He was good with guns and everything like that," said an uncle, Jim McNaughton. "But his interest at heart was working on his '69 Chevelle."

McNaughton's dad drove him home from the hospital in that car when he was born in 1978.

The younger McNaughton wasn't mechanically inclined — but he could turn a wrench and sweep the garage, and he loved helping his dad and uncles restore the car.

"His everything was the car, and his fiancé," said Jim McNaughton. "His life was just getting together. It was just getting started, and then this happened."

William McNaughton realized his son was gone when he saw a military car parked near his Centereach, L.I., home.

"One of the hardest feelings is when you see the military waiting at your front door," he said.

"I knew right away."

Paredes took McNaughton's death very hard, said fellow officers.

"She's a quiet, wonderful, straightforward lady who comes to work every day," said one cop who knows her.

Yesterday, she was surrounded by colleagues at the home she shared with McNaughton in Middle Village, Queens.

James McNaughton, a wrestler at Centereach HS, graduated in 1996 and joined the Army. Just one day after his initial five-year military stint, he entered the Police Academy, where he met Paredes.

After Sept. 11, the Army called him up for a year of active duty. McNaughton then returned to the NYPD, where he worked out of the Transit Bureau precinct based at the Canal Street IND station.

His police colleagues called his death a tragedy.

"He was a nice guy, quiet, a really good man," said Edward Looney, a fellow Transit District 2 cop.

McNaughton served with the 306th Military Police Battalion, which is based at Fort Totten in Queens.

Last year, firefighter Christian Engledrum became the first city employee to die in Iraq when he was killed in Baghdad by a car bomb.

Additional reporting by Murray Weiss, Ikimulisa Livingston and Angelina Cappiello