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Tue May 20, 2014
Fallen Brentwood Officer Remembered For Kindness, Passion For Helping Others
Steve Arkell worked Mondays as a part-time officer for the Brentwood Police Department.
And it was Monday of last week when, responding to a routine domestic disturbance call, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.
But Arkell was much more than an officer to the small town of about 4,000 people.
Those who knew him recall a man with a genuine passion for family and community.
If you’re looking for someone to talk to you about Arkell, there are few people more qualified than Exeter High School Athletic Director Bill Ball.
Back when Ball was teaching junior high English in Exeter, he had Arkell as a student.
“He wore so many hats. Part-time police officer. Animal control officer. Carpenter. Coach. He touched so many areas and he did all of it with a level of excellence not often seen.”
You can see that impact as you drive through town.
There are signs on nearly every corner and virtually every store front, thanking him for his service and wishing his family well.
At the Brentwood Country Store, there’s a can on the counter where people can donate to Arkell’s family.
Store owner Lisa Dow says she’s had to empty the can every day, sometimes twice.
“Just a very caring guy, unbelievable to the community.”
Dow recalls Arkell stopping at the store with his daughters on the way to games and in his role as the town’s animal control officer.
“He would come into the store, pick up a stray animal, come in looking for dog food, cat food. Try to take money out of his pocket and I’d say no, take the food.”
Arkell joined the small Brentwood police department 15 years ago.
He leaves behind fewer than 10 officers in the department, where officers from other towns have been filling in while his colleagues take time to grieve.
Aside from his police work, Arkell was the volunteer assistant coach for the Exeter High School lacrosse team.
Brentwood sends its students there, and both Arkell’s daughters play for the team.
Principal Sean Kiley’s last memory of Arkell is from a ceremony in November, when Arkell’s oldest daughter Kim signed her letter of intent to play lacrosse at the University of Vermont.
Kiley remembers how Arkell didn’t say a word.
“When she signed that letter of intent, I saw a guy who just kind of sat there, very proud. It wasn’t about him. It wasn’t about anything but her. It was an emotional day for them. He sat there because it was her moment.”
Athletic Director Bill Ball says the girls on the team respected Arkell’s passion for sportsmanship and appreciated his attention to detail.
“Little things meant a lot to him. And if you’re really good at your profession and coaching, little things are what matter and he always paid attention to detail. He was able to motivate. He wasn’t a yeller, he was a communicator.”
The school has offered grief counselors to students and staff hit hard by the loss.
In downtown Exeter Monday evening, car after car stopped as officers from the Exeter Police Department collect donations for Arkell’s family.
The drive was only in its first few minutes, but Detective Patrick Mulholland says he’d already been overwhelmed by the community’s support.
“We had one lady with a hundred dollar bill, another with a fifty dollar bill. We had two teenagers come out who did a lemonade stand, over two hundred dollars they gave us a check for. It’s just fantastic.”
All told, they ended up raising more than $15,000 in three hours that night.
Like with any tragedy, there’s the initial shock, there’s the disbelief, and then there’s the acceptance.
Principal Sean Kiley says the school’s students and staff have gone through all those stages, and are starting to look ahead.
“We’re preparing for his children to come back to school. We’re preparing for his daughter to graduate in a couple weeks. We’re preparing for his youngest daughter to go through these hallways for three more years. And we’re preparing to honor this great individual here at this high school.”
A public memorial service will be held at the school’s athletic stadium late Wednesday morning, preceded by a procession starting at the town’s dragway and along Route 27 to the school.
Fremont officer Derek Franek, the first officer on scene after Arkell, will lead the procession.
Police from across the state and the nation are expected to take part.