The 13-year NYPD veteran stopped at a luncheonette on Hollis Avenue, near 208th Street, to buy a pack of cigarettes. As he entered, he realized the store was being robbed and one of the three robbers was holding a gun to a young woman’s head.
As soon as Nugent drew his gun, the robbers opened fire. Nugent was able to shoot and kill one suspect before he got hit in the forehead. The lawman was rushed to Long Island Jewish Hospital where he died in surgery several hours later.
The two surviving suspects were later arrested and charged with murder.
Decades later, Nugent's sacrifice was honored during a moving ceremony Thursday to rename an intersection in Hollis after him.
“I got a call at 11 o’clock at night that evening," said Barbara Nugent, 82, widow of the fallen officer. "They said: 'Barbara, we are picking you up, Kenny has been hurt.'”
“And I knew in my heart, it was more than hurt because if Kenny Nugent was able to, he would call me himself,” she added.
Nugent’s youngest child was 6 months old when he died, the oldest was 18.
The intersection of 91st Avenue and 188th Street in Hollis, about 20 blocks away from where Nugent shot, was chosen because it is near St. Gerard Majella church, where he was baptized and where he attended services.
“He was active, and he worked from morning till night," Barbara Nugent said about her late husband. "If it wasn’t for his family, it was for the New York City Police Department, because he loved, he loved the 103rd Precinct.”
“Ever since childhood Kenny always wanted to be a police officer,” said Deputy Inspector John Cappelmann, commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct during the ceremony attended by Rep. Peter King and Gregory Meeks.
As a young boy, Cappelmann said, Nugent spent his spare time helping out at the precinct. He then started his own business “Kens Auto Body Repair,” and later served in the Marine Corps, before becoming a police officer in 1958.
“He was Jamaica, Queens,” said Councilman Daneek Miller, who sponsored a legislation to rename the intersection. “He went to school right here, he was raised and educated right here in this community and he served this community.”
“His name will forever be remembered … because of this street renaming,” Miller noted.
Barbara Nugent said she hopes her late husband will inspire locals as well as the students attending Cambria Heights Academy, located at the intersection, who will see Nugent's name and will want to know: “Who was that man,” Nugent said.