The community is remembering a police officer who made a difference in his hometown of Hamden.

Just two days after Michael Pantera retired, authorities say he died in a car crash.

“It was a very difficult moment to learn of this. And to say I was shocked is an understatement,” said Acting Police Chief Timothy Wydra.

Hamden’s acting police chief is among those stunned Pantera suddenly passed away Tuesday night. He had served as a police officer for 24 years.

“Mike was a very caring person. He had volunteer in his blood. He was the true public servant,” Wydra said.

Many can’t believe that authorities say Pantera passed away after a one-car crash on Foxon Road in North Branford Tuesday night. It happened just two days after the 65-year-old had retired from Hamden Police.

“Tragically, you know, four or five days ago, I was at the podium here with him, shaking his hand and giving him his retirement patch and having a piece of cake with him. And now he’s gone. And it’s really tough to put into words, those emotions and those feelings,” Wydra said.

Now, town flags are lowered to half-staff to honor Pantera who is being remembered as selfless and compassionate.

Born and raised in Hamden, he had spent time in several divisions including patrol, bicycle and community police.

“Officer Pantera was a really great person and a kind officer. He really enjoyed the community events that we had around town, enjoyed talking to people, he was very interactive, and would just go around, ride his bike around and talk with everyone,” said Mayor Lauren Garrett, D – Hamden.

The acting chief said Pantera had wanted to stay on the job, but had to retire because of his age. He’s remembered as a devoted family man who leaves behind a wife and three children.

“It hurts, and we mourn him, we miss him, but we honor him and we certainly thank him for everything he did here,” Wydra said.

North Branford Police say their sympathy goes out to Pantera’s family, friends and fellow officers.

An investigation into the crash is underway and anyone who might have seen something is asked to give them a call.

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