Police sergeant struggled with pain from surgery

2013-05-23T03:55:00Z 2013-05-23T13:08:06Z Police sergeant struggled with pain from surgeryBy JONATHAN EDWARDS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Tom Hamm didn’t care that cops don’t hug, that he was on duty or that he outranked the 25-year-old officer.

He hugged his daughter.

“Cops don’t (do that), especially when they’re working,” said Charity Hamm, who followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the Lincoln Police Department two years ago.

But that was Tom Hamm, 53, who loved to talk to friends and strangers, whistle whenever and sing the same line from the same song over and over.

“He was very outgoing, very charismatic,” said Kathy Hamm, his wife of 32 years.

Lancaster County sheriff’s investigators think Hamm, a 24-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department, shot and killed himself Tuesday night. A deputy found Hamm at 10:20 Tuesday in woods east of Stagecoach Lake with a gunshot wound to the head, Police Chief Jim Peschong said.

Hamm loved working as a street cop, his wife said, but the job wore on his body.

He underwent surgery 13 times during his 32-year marriage, Kathy Hamm said. He hoped an April 5 surgery to replace his left knee would fix everything, but he didn’t bounce back as well -- or as quickly -- as he expected.

The past three years were especially painful, she said.

“It was, in his words, excruciating,” his wife said. “I think that was enough for him.”

He passed on the love of helping others to his daughters -- Bethany, Charity and Hayley -- but he passed on the love for his livelihood to his middle daughter. Charity Hamm, who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2009 with a criminal justice degree, had wanted to be a cop since she was little, playing with her father's gear and wearing his uniform around the house.

“When somebody needs help, we don’t care who they are, if they’re a stranger,” she said. “We were the same person -- our personality, our faults, our strengths.”

And even if he weren’t gung-ho about her working in an inherently dangerous job, he studied with her while she was at the academy. He’d help her answer tricky questions during training. And when she joined the department, he’d start his shift helping finish hers, giving her a hand in filling out reports. Or he’d bring her a snack or a cup of coffee.

“He was never a sergeant to me. He never pulled that card,” she said.

When he wasn’t on the beat, Hamm loved to hunt near the family’s cabin in Cambridge and fish while vacationing in his native Florida, Kathy Hamm said. It’s where he hoped to move after he retired from the force in five years.

Lincoln police rallied around the Hamm family Wednesday. “We’re a big family. My phone hasn’t stopped,” Charity Hamm said.

Peschong offered praise for his sergeant.

“He’s somebody who would wind up helping somebody out. All they had to do was ask,” Peschong said. “He came to work every day wanting to do the best job he could do.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Reach Jonathan Edwards at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/LJSedwards.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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