When Brentwood, N.H., police Officer Stephen Arkell was shot to death Monday it was a sad deja vu for the Granite State.
Arkell is the eighth officer fatally shot in the line of duty in the past 20 years in New Hampshire.
The worst stretch — three in five days — was in August 1997, when Epsom Patrolman Jeremy Charron was shot to death on his way back from the service for New Hampshire State Police Troopers Scott Phillips and Leslie Lord. They were both killed by Carl Drega, who went on a bloody rampage in Colebrook, killing not only the two troopers, but also a lawyer, a newspaper editor and wounding four other law enforcement officers.
While there is no bright spot to a run like New Hampshire’s, it gives Mainers something to reflect on.
The last Maine law enforcement officer to lose his life to gunfire was Maine State Police Detective Giles R. Landry, who was shot and killed when responding to a domestic issue in Leeds in 1989.
Landry and the 83 other Maine officers who have died in the line of duty will be honored Thursday in a ceremony in Augusta.
The ceremony at the Maine Law Enforcement Memorial, an annual event, will be held at 11 a.m. at the memorial on the Capitol grounds on State Street, just south of the State House. Gov. Paul LePage will be the guest speaker.
The last officer in the state to lose his life in the line of duty was Maine Warden pilot Daryl Gordon, in a plane crash in 2011.
A press release announcing the memorial event notes that “no new names have been added (to the memorial) this year.”
Maine officers who have died in the line of duty have been killed by everything from heart attacks and plane and car crashes to assaults, drownings and explosions.
But there’s something particularly jarring about a shooting death.
There’s no mistaking what the intent was — it was to kill the officer.
And so many of those shooting deaths were when the officer was responding to a domestic dispute.
Arkell’s was. So was Landry’s.
And in both cases, the person who shot the cop then killed himself.
Most of us are lucky to only deal with police in the most benign circumstances.
We know when we really need help, we can call one and he or she will be there.
The irony of an officer stepping into a family disturbance and ending up getting killed is perhaps one of the biggest metaphors for what police really do: protect and serve.
The stories about Arkell say he never had a chance to pull his gun. He got to the house in a typical New Hampshire residential neighborhood and Walter Nolan, in his 80s, was standing outside after a fight with his 47-year-old son, Michael. He told Arkell it was OK to go in, so Arkell did.
Michael Nolan not only shot him to death, but also fired at another officer who responded minutes later, then burned the house down with himself and Arkell’s body in it. A couple who lived upstairs was not home, or they likely would have been casualties too, killed when the house exploded during the fire.
The circumstances surrounding Landry’s death in Maine in 1989 weren’t a lot different.
He was in a car at 10 a.m. outside a mobile home talking to the woman of the house about child abuse allegations against her boyfriend, David Grover, 36, when Grover shot them both.
“The police have been there so many times,” said a neighbor at the time. Grover “was always in trouble. I don’t know why she stayed with him.”
Slowly, we’re trying to change the things about our society that set up the circumstances that lead to the deaths of the cops who step in to try to help.
Landry will be remembered at the Augusta ceremony tomorrow. Arkell, though his death happened over the border, will be remembered, too.
Unfortunately, they won’t be the last ones.
Maureen Milliken is news editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email her at [email protected].Twitter: @mmilliken47Kennebec Tales is published the first and third Thursday of the month.