"We are all upset that it has happened again," said Fetherston. "Our concerns and our priorities are with our police department, the family of the slain officer and our residents."

School Superintendent Ernest Perlini called McDermott "a beautiful person. She was sensitive with our students."

Students who gathered in a Newington High School parking lot late Monday were saddened and shocked, and visibly upset that instead of mourning just one, they were mourning two.

"I just talked to her today and she told me I could call her anytime," said Gina Nardi, a junior at the school who had been one of many students to meet with McDermott following Horan's accident.

"I feel like this is not real," said Nicole Dehaas, a sophomore at the school who, like many others, struggled not to cry as they hugged other students who arrived at the parking lot. "We were supposed to be here to mourn Brendan, now we are mourning Officer McDermott too."

"Two lives lost in three days, this is not good," Nardi said.

When word of McDermott's death circulated among the group, students spray painted a white bed sheet with a memorial message in her honor and hung it on a chain link fence next to another that hung in Horan's memory.

"Mcdermott R.I.P.," it read. "We [love] you. 11-21-05."

"It's a terrible thing, terrible," was all that new Mayor Rodney Mortensen could say. "Who could imagine that the department would lose another officer in such a short period of time. This is devastating."

Police officers scurried in and out of the police department building that was just named in memory of Lavery.

"I can't talk about it," said one officer, who refused to give his name as he ran into the building to join a growing crowd of fellow officers at the building. "This is a nightmare and clearly a terrible loss for the community."

Those who knew McDermott described her as a qualified police officer who loved her job.

"She was a good kid and always did a good job. The kids got along with her well and she helped a lot of kids out with a lot problems," said John DiNardi, a retired police officer who worked with McDermott for several years. "She always considered the high school kids her kids. She always took an intense interest in their lives."

Before working in Hartford, Diaz had worked as a resident state trooper in Colchester for several years, supplementing the town's small police force.

After he left Colchester and went to the Hartford barracks, Diaz began having problems, including the drunken driving arrest in which he fought with police officers.

"Obviously, he had some issues. I think that says something when you fight with other cops," one trooper said.

State police union President David LeBlanc said, "Everybody is in absolute shock right now." He fielded dozens of calls from troopers Monday night.

McDermott was sworn in as a Newington police officer in August 1998 - one of four new officers who had completed a 20-week training course at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden.

A Fairfield University graduate, McDermott said at the time that she began thinking at age 12 or 13 of becoming a police officer. She cited as her "inspiration" her father.

A year earlier, McDermott was one of five college students chosen to recite their own poetry by judges in the Connecticut Poetry Circuit. She wrote of women's lives and intermingled farm images gleaned from her rural Durham childhood.

She purchased 348 Ridgewood Road this year, according to town land records.

Peter McDermott didn't try to discourage his daughter from becoming an officer, said James Noonan, an instructor at the police academy.

"You know, it was the typical reaction from a father. If that's what she wanted to do, he supported it," Noonan said. "We are always worried about ours and all the rest."

William Knapp, retired director of the training academy, said McDermott was proud of his daughter, and spoke of her often.

"She's such a nice girl, a nice person. She's the human side of law enforcement," Knapp said. "I got a son who is a cop too. Of course, you worry.

"But she didn't die because she's a cop. She's a crime victim."

This story was reported by Courant Staff Writers Dave Altimari, Maryellen Fillo, Tracy Gordon Fox, Christine Dempsey, Edmund Mahony, Larry Smith, Daniela Altimari, Grace Merritt and Peter Downs.