CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – A highway won’t be named after slain Franconia police Cpl. Bruce McKay this year in his hometown that is still emotionally divided over what happened the day McKay and his killer died.

The House voted 257-95 on Wednesday to study the idea in hopes the emotions would ease.

“The day will come when Cpl. Bruce McKay will be memorialized,” said retired police officer Stephen Shurtleff, a Concord Democrat.

“When that day comes, it must be his day and his day only. It can’t be debased by controversy.”

McKay was shot to death in a traffic stop gone wrong last May by Liko Kenney, a cousin of skier Bode Miller who had a contentious history with the officer. A passer-by then shot Kenney to death.

The incident divided the town. Some believe McKay should be honored. Others believe the officer pushed Kenney to the breaking point with aggressive police tactics.

A House committee had recommended studying naming the part of the Franconia Notch Parkway between mile markers 108 and 110 the Corporal Bruce McKay Memorial Parkway. The committee said it wanted time to hear from the town and surrounding communities.

“I believe without exception we try to do the right thing,” said Nashua Democrat David Campbell.

But supporters argued against postponement. They noted that lawmakers acted quickly to create memorials for the other four officers killed in the line of duty since 1997.

“There is nothing more to study about this,” said Franconia Democrat Martha McLeod, the bill’s prime sponsor.

“Officer McKay’s family has made a deep sacrifice. They don’t deserve to be told to go away for any amount of time.”

She offered to change the sign location to an intersection within the park.

“Let’s be real here,” she said. “We’re talking about a 12-by-18, black and white sign along the roadway.”

Retired police officer George Winchell said delaying action won’t change things.

“There are a lot of hard feelings on this particular bill,” said the Atkinson Democrat. “Those hard feelings are not going to go away.”

But former House Speaker Gene Chandler said the committee – which he is on – has a long history of honoring fallen officers. He said the House has rejected similar requests in the past that were not supported by the community. A group working to bring the factions together in Franconia asked for more time, said Chandler, R-Bartlett.

Gov. John Lynch told reporters Wednesday he believes McKay should be memorialized in the area, but did not comment on a timeframe.

“I am outraged there is a suggestion somehow we should not honor Bruce McKay, or somehow he is responsible for his own killing. It is outrageous,” Lynch said.

At a hearing on the proposal, some area residents and Kenney’s sister-in-law opposed it. Beth Towle Kenney described the bill as “a stab in the back.”

But McKay’s fiancee, Sharon Davis-McKay, told lawmakers that the stretch of highway around Cannon Mountain and Echo Lake were McKay’s favorite and part of his regular patrol route.

“He should always be remembered as a father and protector of community life,” she said.

McKay’s father later wrote an opinion piece published in the New Hampshire Union Leader asking for the honor, not just for his son, but also for the law enforcement community.

“I would be very proud if those in the Legislature could acknowledge his efforts as a symbolic affirmation of all the citizens among us who continue to serve and protect and vote affirmatively to name this portion of the Notch in his honor,” N. Bruce McKay wrote.

He also wrote that he had watched while the community attempted to resolve the divide. He said he didn’t understand how some could believe his son was responsible for his own death.

“A small sign along the highway may offend some of the citizenry of Franconia, but I am sure that in the hearts of the many this acknowledgment represents an extension of their continued commitment to the rule of law and their respect for same – their commitment to never forget a fallen hero who was exclusively there for them,” he wrote.

AP-ES-01-30-08 1546EST

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