Colleagues remember Capt. Lehto

Photo by NASHUA POLICE Nashua police Captain Jonathan Lehto, who died unexpectedly Monday on the West Coast, in a photo provided by Nashua police.

NASHUA – Favorite memories of working alongside Nashua Police Department Capt. Jonathan Lehto, whether during his years on patrol, as a detective in the department’s former Youth Services Division or his five years as a police prosecutor, were the topic of conversation Tuesday at NPD headquarters, local courthouses and across the land of social media.

Lehto, who first got a law degree before choosing to pursue a law enforcement career in his native Nashua, died unexpectedly Monday while visiting family in the Seattle area.

The cause and circumstances of Lehto’s death had not been announced as of late Tuesday. Indications are, however, his services will take place in Nashua in the near future.

“We are working on the details with members of Jon’s family,” Police Chief Michael Carignan said Tuesday, referring to the dates and times of Lehto’s services. “Jon was part of our NPD family, as are his mom, dad, and his wife,” Carignan added.

Lehto joined that NPD family more than 20 years ago, realizing a dream he had carried even while studying law at Boston University. Upon receiving his degree at graduation, Lehto next set his sights on becoming an officer in Nashua.

“He always wanted to a Nashua police officer,” Carignan said, adding that he and Lehto went through both junior and senior high together.

Once hired and sworn, Lehto was assigned to the patrol division, where he spent the bulk of his career before joining the former Youth Services Division, a detective unit now called the Special Investigations Division, Carignan said.

Lehto “moved up through the ranks,” and about five years ago, was transferred to the department’s legal division.

“Jon was a well-respected individual,” Capt. E.Z. Paulson, head of the legal division, said Tuesday.

The mood in Paulson’s third-floor office at Hillsborough County Superior Court-South was subdued Tuesday morning, as fellow prosecutors and office personnel struggled to come to terms with the unexpected loss.

“I think, if you spoke with any of the prosecutors, the judges, even the defense attorneys who worked with Jon, you’d hear glowing” responses, Paulson added.

Carignan seconded Paulson’s characterization of Lehto, describing him as “always positive around all officers … everybody felt comfortable” in his presence.

Lehto carried that same demeanor to the Spring Street courthouse, where he was always “willing to explain any issues with anyone” who needed help or guidance,” Carignan said.

No matter his task for the day, Lehto remained “positive and friendly,” the chief said, adding that Lehto always impressed him as “an unbelievably intelligent man” who seemed to know all the answers.

“I can’t tell you how many legal opinions he gave me as a deputy chief,” Carignan said.

Mayor Jim Donchess said Tuesday that he and City Hall staff are joining with the law enforcement and legal communities in mourning the loss of Lehto. Donchess described Lehto as “a very fine police officer (who has) done a good job for a long time.”

Donchess said his office will be “working with the police department … to do whatever feels appropriate,” he said, likely referring to any special accommodations that may be necessary on the day or days of Lehto’s services.

“I’d like to extend my condolences to members of Capt. Lehto’s family … everyone, of course is saddened by his loss,” Donchess added.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com, or @Telegraph_DeanS.