Small towns are oft known for a "familial," friendly, trustful demeanor. But sometimes misplaced trust is a misguided notion, or as in the case of Clay City (Ky.) Police Chief Randy Lacy, a dangerous one with deadly consequences.

Lacy, 55, was killed yesterday during the transportation of a suspect arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. The suspect had a long criminal record.

"Randy was a good officer," says Greg Adams, a Powell County sheriff's deputy. "But he did trust people a little too much."

Lacy had been police chief of the 1,300-member Appalachian foothills town since 2004. He began serving in law enforcement in 1985. Known for his big heart and trusting nature, Lacy would sometimes stop and buy suspects snacks or cigarettes before carting them off to jail.

Garland Lacy, the police chief's brother and a court bailiff and sheriff's chaplain, says, "He was respected by all the police officers, and he was even loved by the people he was putting in jail."

It was Lacy's trusting, respectful nature that led him to adopt the policy of cuffing the hands of the individuals he arrested in the front instead of behind the back. Also, according to Adams, Lacy kept a spare gun unsecured between the front seat and the console of his cruiser.

While the report remains unconfirmed by authorities, a county judge-executive cites Lacy's death as the result from a gunshot wound that was fired from the back of his vehicle. According to police, it was unclear how the suspect, who had a long history of criminal activity, accessed a gun. It may have been Lacy's own.

Lacy's death has rocked the small Appalachian town, leaving many wondering not just how, but why. "Everybody's shocked by it. The town sort of went wild today," says Brenda Patrick, whose mother lived adjacent to the chief. "It's like a blanket of sorrow spread over the neighborhood."