NASHUA — The city’s police force is mourning the loss of one of its own men in blue.
“My heart breaks right now for this agency,” Police Chief Mike Carignan said on Tuesday, the day after learning of Capt. Jon Lehto’s untimely death during a visit to the West Coast.
Lehto had been a captain with the Nashua Police Department since January, but had served on the force since 1999 in various positions.
“He was extremely intelligent, extremely kind and quietly funny,” said the chief, adding the police station was very somber on Tuesday.
Carignan sent an email to all of the department’s employees and retired employees notifying them of Lehto’s passing on Monday, and spoke with Lehto’s wife and parents.
The chief is attending every roll call and is meeting with all employees to ensure that there is peer support for everyone in the department, including the command staff. Clinicians are also available to assist those struggling with Lehto’s death.
“Everybody is in shock,” said Carignan, adding the loss hits close to home for him, since he knew Lehto as a child.
Lehto was born and raised in Nashua, and the two attended middle school and high school together before Lehto graduated in 1990. Lehto later attended Boston University and Boston University Law School, where he earned his law degree.
“But he always wanted to be a police officer,” said Carignan.
After being hired in 1999, Lehto quickly rose through the ranks. He was promoted to sergeant in 2010, lieutenant in 2015 and captain in 2019.
The majority of his career was spent with the former Youth Services Division, which is now known as Special Investigations. Lehto handled cases involving crimes against children and sexual assault cases, according to the chief.
“That was the majority of his career,” said Carignan, explaining Lehto had also been transferred to the legal bureau in 2013.
Lehto was a member of the department’s SWAT team and was the 2007 Nashua Exchange Club Officer of the Year. A year later, he was honored with the Dr. Roger M. Fossum award by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect.
“He was in phenomenal shape, super articulate and intelligent,” said Carignan, explaining Lehto had the utmost respect from his peers, Hillsborough County public defenders and others who worked with him daily.
The details of his funeral service are still being finalized.
“He will be brought home,” Carignan said of Lehto, adding he is respecting the needs of the Lehto family at this time.
Police departments from throughout the state and several elected officials extended their condolences to the Nashua police force.
“Please keep the members of the Nashua Police Department and family of Capt. Jon Lehto in your thoughts today as they deal with this sudden loss,” the Merrimack Police Department said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, said her heart is with the family of Lehto and city police.
“We are forever in debt to Capt. Lehto for faithfully serving his community for decades, and will carry his memory in our hearts,” Kuster said in a statement.