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HPD pair honored as top cops

Jim Rgnonti and Joe Kegley began their careers together with the Hastings Police Department on the same day in the summer of 1987.

Back then they were patrol officers. Today they are lieutenants. And this week they were recognized together for their individual achievements in law enforcement and for their work together on a double homicide last October that led to the arrest, charge and conviction of the two suspects involved in the murder.

On Wednesday Rgnonti and Kegley received distinguished service awards from the state Chiefs of Police Association at its annual conference in St. Cloud.

The Hastings officers were nominated by Hastings Police Chief Mike McMenomy, who said it was only fitting to recognize Rgnonti and Kegley together for their outstanding service as individuals and as a team.

"I nominated both of them because I felt they were both qualified, for the type of work they've done over the years," McMenomy said. "But I nominated them together because of the work they did together specifically with the October double homicide. They've always worked well as a team."

Rgnonti can attest to that.

"Joe and I feed off of each other very well when we're working together on a case," said Rgnonti who became an investigator with Kegley and McMenomy in 1991. "We always have a 'get-it-done' attitude and we make sure we get it done right."

Kegley said any professional success he and Rgnonti have achieved comes with experience and loving their careers.

"It really comes down to a matter of job satisfaction," Kegley said. "Jim and I have been through a lot in this city over the years, and we've seen a lot of different cases."

One of the most recent examples of Rgnonti and Kegley's teamwork in action came last October when the officers were faced with one of the most intense crime investigations of their careers.

Rgnonti and Kegley took charge of the scene at Gordy's Auto Glass on Vermillion Street on Oct. 8 after it was reported that a Hastings couple had been shot to death inside the business.

By nightfall, the suspects Matthew Niedere, 18, Hastings and Clayton Keister, 18, Blaine, were apprehended. The teens pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in February and were later sentenced for the October 2005 murder of Niedere's parents.

McMenomy said the relatively open-and-shut case was a result of the efficient police work led by Rgnonti and Kegley.

"The outcome of the case is an example of the kind of police work Joe and Jim do and how well they work together," McMenomy said.

In the immediate aftermath of the double homicide, Kegley worked to secure the crime scene and coordinated calls between law enforcement agencies to track down the suspects. Rgnonti focused on the investigation and interrogation of the suspects.

"I didn't even read the newspaper or watch television during the investigation," Rgnonti said about the intense investigation. "We were so focused and constantly thinking ahead, making sure we had a good investigation, without any holes that a defense attorney could go after."

Kegley said communication with Rgnonti was key to advancing the investigation.

"In the end, when you put it all together, you want to be able to have all the pieces match up," Kegley said.

But whether it's working together on serious felony crimes or organizing security for the Rivertown Days festival, Rgnonti and Kegley agree that they have worked together well since day one.

"I think Jim and I both share a sense of pride in the big stuff and the little stuff we have to do on the job," Kegley said.

Rgnonti said that in most anything they do as a team, they work well with each other.

"It's always fun working with Joe because we have skills that complement each other and we both like working in the Hastings community," Rgnonti said.

McMenomy said the almost 19 years of dedication that each officer has given to the Hastings community is more than appreciated.

"They both love their job and have a good work ethic," McMenomy said. "They're not the type to watch the clock as the end of the shift approaches."

"If (the HPD) is a team and I am the head coach, Joe and Jim are my two top assistants."