As people continue to mourn and attempt to comprehend the tragedy that took place outside a North Beverly Starbucks on Friday night, commendation is due those bystanders who rushed to the aid of injured Beverly police officer Jason Lantych.
Their quick action likely saved the officer's life after he was shot in the leg by Hamilton police Sgt. Kenneth Nagy, who later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Deborah Crosbie of Hamilton, who works as an operating-room nurse in a Boston hospital, was in the Starbucks with her husband when she heard the shots. She emerged to find Lantych stumbling toward the sidewalk, bleeding profusely from the leg. She acted quickly to stem the flow of blood by applying pressure to his femoral artery.
A Boxford man, John Sholomith, identified as a premed student, also assisted, as did Matthew Miller, another Starbucks customer.
"I was sitting inside by the fireplace. I heard a loud bang, and I heard someone screaming," Miller told Salem News reporter Michael Phillis.
Meanwhile, as of yesterday, speculation continued to run rampant in both Beverly and Hamilton over what might have caused Nagy to shoot Lantych and then take his own life.
In addition, there are legitimate concerns over how the incident, which took place during a busy time of the evening in a strip mall that houses a bank and restaurant, as well as the coffee shop, placed the safety of others in danger. Indeed, Beverly police Chief Mark Ray acknowledged that hazard in commending those involved for attending to Lantych "without regard to their own safety."
Authorities as of Sunday had yet to interview Lantych, who was recovering, but still in serious condition, at Beverly Hospital. And the district attorney's office was still conducting ballistics tests to determine whether the revolver Nagy used to shoot Lantych was a department-issued service weapon or his own firearm.
Whether it was a personal issue that went awry, a tragic accident or something else, however, those in authority ought to provide an explanation as to what caused one police officer to shoot another. The community has the right to know what happened between these two public servants sworn to uphold the law and given the power to place people under arrest. While both were off-duty at the time, no less would be expected if this was an attempted murder and suicide involving two civilians.
The Hamilton Police Department had just begun to recover from a scandal that resulted in their chief, since retired, being prosecuted for participating in the falsification of EMT training records and the state's decertification of the ambulance service the department had provided the town. It would be best for both departments to get the facts out as quickly as possible rather than subject themselves to a continuing stream of rumor and innuendo.