A police SWAT team responding to a domestic disturbance on Monday afternoon in a southern New Hampshire senior community found themselves in a shootout in which one officer , Stephen Arkell, 48, was killed. Shortly after, the house started on fire and a subsequent explosion destroyed the $250,000 residence. The shooting and explosion occurred just after 4:00 p.m. in a two-story duplex home on Mill Pond Road in Brentwood. A second officer was shot as he tried to enter the home. His condition is not known. Selectwoman for Brentwood, Jane Byrne, stated that the officer was transported via helicopter to an area hospital, where he is listed in serious condition. The suspect is believed to have died in the explosion.
Wayne and Susan Hughes, who live next to the now-destroyed home, reported to the Portsmouth Press-Herald that other neighbors called 911 after hearing an argument coming from the home. Before long, dozens of officers had responded to the neighborhood, including a SWAT team with an armored vehicle. Susan Hughes told the paper that she heard “rapid gun fire” shortly after one responding officer had entered the home. Wayne Hughes was ordered into his cellar by police, who then evacuated him from the area in a Humvee.
The Associated Press reports that Walter Nolan, 86, owned the home and lived there with his son, Michael, who is believed to have fired the shots at police. The New Hampshire attorney general stated on Monday night that Michael Nolan is believed to have died in the explosion. Susan Hughes reportedly saw the elder Nolan being driven from the scene by ambulance, but saw nothing else due to her being ordered to leave the area. Members of the media were also asked to stay clear of the scene so as to avoid being in the line of fire. Exeter Hospital spokesperson, Debra Vasapolli, confirmed that the hospital had received a patient from the scene who was treated in emergency, but had not suffered a gunshot wound.
The fire started at approximately 4 p.m., but firefighters were ordered to stay clear of the scene. WMUR-TV in New Hampshire aired a video from above in which fire was seen burning through the roof until just after 5:30 p.m. when an explosion blew out the front of the home, causing flames to completely engulf the townhome as black smoke rose from the neighborhood. Firefighters began fighting the fire at approximately 6 p.m. and had it mostly under control in 30 minutes with no sign of fire having spread to surrounding homes. The neighborhood in which Monday’s events unfolded is a community for people aged 55 years and older. The president of the condominium association went door-to-door during the incident and notified residents to stay inside of their homes and to lock their doors.
Fallen officer Arkell was a Brentwood, New Hampshire, resident since birth. He worked on the police force part-time for several years as an an animal police officer and in the office. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters, one in high school and one in college.
By Jennifer Pfalz