The New York Times

August 11, 2005

Sniper Kills New York Police Officer in Iraq


Among the tens of thousands of American soldiers serving in Iraq are more than 200 New York police officers on leave from the city's precincts to work a more perilous beat.

On Tuesday, one of them, a transit officer and Army reservist from Queens, was killed by a sniper's bullet at an American base on the outskirts of Baghdad.

The soldier, James D. McNaughton, a 27-year-old staff sergeant serving in a military police battalion, is the first New York police officer killed in Iraq, city officials said yesterday. He became engaged to another police officer last month while he was home on a 15-day leave, his family said.

His father, William McNaughton, who recently retired as a transit officer, called his son a hero who "did his job without question."

"It's been a rough day," he said yesterday, standing next to his wife, Michele McNaughton, who is also a police officer, in front of their split-level home in Centereach, on Long Island. Mr. McNaughton described the arrival of soldiers the day before, in a white car, to inform him of his son's death.

"I'm proud of my son, and proud of what he did," he said.

Sergeant McNaughton's death came amid an upsurge in the number of American soldiers dying in Iraq. On Monday, six Marine snipers were killed in an ambush in Haditha, according to American commanders. And yesterday, 14 marines died there when their troop carrier struck a roadside bomb. It was one of the deadliest attacks on United States troops since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Sergeant McNaughton was described as a quiet baby-faced man who devoted his life to public service. A member of the so-called 9/11 class of police recruits, Sergeant McNaughton entered the police academy on July 2, 2001, and was assigned to a transit bureau in Lower Manhattan. The Army called him up for duty on October 4, 2002, the police said.

Relatives said Sergeant McNaughton's career path was no surprise, given his pedigree. He grew up surrounded by relatives who became police officers, and his father and uncle also served in the military.

Everyone remembered his sense of humor.

"He'd walk in a room, he'd smile, and there would be some little prank," said his uncle, Ed McNaughton. "He loved being a cop. He loved being in the Army."

Sergeant McNaughton had worked to restore a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle, his uncle said. Now, he said, it will just sit in the yard.

Sergeant McNaughton was standing guard over prisoners in a tower at Camp Victory, a base near Baghdad International Airport, when he was hit by a sniper's bullet, the police said.

Last year, Christian Engeldrum, a New York City firefighter and a New York National Guardsman, became the first city employee to die in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded under his convoy.

At Transit District 2, on Lispenard Street and West Broadway, police officers expressed shock at the news of their fellow officer's death. "He gave his all; he literally gave his all," said Officer Edward Looney. Another, Officer Michael Percy, said that he was not sure whether Sergeant McNaughton had traveled to Iraq out of obligation or dedication. Whatever his reasons, Officer Percy said, his decision was not driven by politics.

"He volunteered," he said. "He didn't have to go. But his guys were there. He wanted to support his unit."

In July, when Sergeant McNaughton was home on leave, he and his father went to a friend's jewelry store, where they shopped for an engagement ring, his father said. Sergeant McNaughton was planning to marry Liliana Paredes, 25, an officer he had met at the police academy.

Outside the row house in Middle Village, Queens, where the couple lived in a second-floor apartment, a downstairs neighbor hung an American flag yesterday. Officer Paredes told a reporter that she was too upset to talk about her fiancé.

Neighbors said that the couple had recently moved to the neighborhood, and that Sergeant McNaughton could often be seen walking their dogs, Tyler and Shane.

"They had just moved in, and he had to go," said Yvette Carcana, one of the neighbors, said of the couple. "When he came home on leave, she was so happy. She would say, 'One more week, one more week, one more week.' "

"That's sad," Ms. Carcana said. "She was so happy."

Ann Farmer and Janon Fisher contributed reporting for this article.