Lawrence police are investigating the death of a 27-year-old Lawrence man who officers think was injured in a physical altercation Saturday several hours before his death.
Friends of Nicholas J. Sardina, an Iraq war veteran who had attended both Kansas and Kansas State universities and played on club hockey teams, were still dealing with the shock Tuesday.
“He was the most genuine and caring person I’ve ever known,” said his girlfriend Darcy Singleton, a Lawrence resident. “He looked out for anyone who was in his life. Anything that they needed or he could do, he was always there in a heartbeat.”
Capt. Mike Pattrick, an investigations supervisor, said police and medical personnel were called about 1:10 p.m. Saturday to a medical emergency at a residence in the 1500 block of Tennessee Street.
Officers were directed to a man inside, and after life support measures were unsuccessful he was pronounced dead. Pattrick said preliminary information indicated Sardina was involved in a physical altercation earlier in the 300 block of West 14th Street.
“Detectives, officers and the coroner are investigating to see if the altercation in any way contributed to Mr. Sardina’s death,” Pattrick said. “The investigation has identified many of the people involved in the altercation. No arrests have been made at this time.”
Kim Murphree, a Lawrence police spokeswoman, said officers were not called about the earlier altercation and discovered that information as part of the death investigation. Singleton said she understood Sardina had been at a party at a house in that block. She had been at work and later went home but received a text message from him at 3:45 a.m. Saturday that he had been involved in a scuffle and had a bottle broken over his head.
“That was the last message I’d heard from him,” Singleton said.
Police are investigating to determine possible suspects and friends and family are waiting to hear more, she said. Sardina was at a friend’s house on Tennessee Street that morning. He lived on Mississippi Street, Singleton said.
Sardina was a former Kansas University student who last enrolled during the fall, said Jill Jess, a KU spokeswoman. Friends said he played on KU’s club ice hockey team. From 2008 to 2010 he attended Kansas State University where he was a goalie and forward on K-State’s inline hockey club team, and even returned to the team recently as he began taking online graduate courses at K-State.
Chris Clavin, a K-State captain on those teams, said Sardina was a great teammate and good friend, who would often order extra food and give it to teammates short on cash at the end of road trips.
“He was the guy that was invincible,” said Clavin, of Wichita. “He was the guy that always got up from everything, and to hear what happened especially, just basically still doesn’t seem real.”
According to his obituary in the Buffalo News, Sardina, originally from Clarence, N.Y., was a sergeant in the Kansas National Guard and had also served three tours in Iraq from 2006 to 2007 with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley.
“He loved what he had done for his country. He never wanted anyone to thank him because it was such an honor for him to have done that,” Singleton said. “But he did suffer a lot because of it.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder was constantly with Sardina as he suffered with what he saw during his Iraq deployment. He didn’t sleep very much, she said.
Sardina’s goal was to become a JAG officer but lately he had focused on a flight medic program with the National Guard. Services for Sardina are scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Friday in Depew, N.Y., near Buffalo.
“He survived so much. He was so strong, and he survived so much,” Singleton said. “It’s hard and frustrating to think he couldn’t get through this. It seems very unfair.”