Thousands of police officers, first responders, friends and family packed the athletic stadium at Exeter High School Wednesday to pay tribute to fallen Brentwood officer Steve Arkell.
It was a week and a half ago when Arkell was killed in the line of duty responding to a domestic disturbance call.
At the memorial service, speakers paid tribute to a man they said put love of family and service to his community above all else.
A stream of blue flashing lights marked the start of this somber morning, as the procession starting at the New England Dragway in Epping got underway.
Thousands of police officers and first responders marched down Route 27. They’d traveled from cities as large as Boston and towns as small as Montpelier, Vermont to pay their respects.
Hundreds of people gathered along the side of the road, many saluting the officers and wearing black and blue ribbons in honor of Arkell.
Criss Parsons came from Kensington.
“To support the Brentwood people, the family of Steve. I’m involved with the fire department, so we wanted to come out and do our part, too.”
A few feet away, Kim Walsh of Brentwood stood with her two sons, 11-year-old Zachary and 7-year-old Jackson.
“We didn’t want to go to the memorial because they were a little too young for that, but we at least wanted to represent our family and support them and I want them to understand what it means to be part of this town.”
The march continued under an American flag stretched between two fire trucks – one from Exeter and one from Durham – leading up the hill toward procession to its ending point, Exeter High School.
The service was held at the same athletic field where Arkell coached his two teenage daughters Kim and Lauren on the school’s lacrosse team.
At the start of the service, the team came onto the field wearing the number 87 – Arkell’s badge number.
Governor Maggie Hassan paid her condolences to the family, and said Arkell will rightfully be remembered as a hero who gave his life to protect his community.
“But he will also be remembered as a father, a husband, a coach, a neighbor, a friend, a brother, a son; as a local leader known to all as a kind and caring soul.”
Arkell grew up in Brentwood and graduated from Exeter High School in 1984. He joined the town’s police department 15 years ago, working part-time mainly in animal control.
Colonel Bob Quinn with the state police was one of the many police and fire officials who responded to last week’s shooting.
Investigators say Arkell was shot and killed before the suspected gunman set the house on fire, and was also killed.
Quinn praised Arkell’s actions that day and tried to give comfort to those who wished they could have done more.
“I know how hard each of you tried and can see the pain in your eyes, but there was nothing anyone could do. Steve had done it all. He tried to help, and in doing so, he laid down his life and saved countless officers.”
Brentwood Police Lieutenant David Roy knew Arkell nearly his whole life, and said he was as dedicated to the job as anyone.
Even in his part-time duties, Roy said Arkell often checked up on old cases to see if there was anything else he could do.
“Make no mistake: Steve cared. Steve loved this town, this community. He loved serving all of you.”
Roy said he’ll remember Arkell’s patience and ability to find something good in everyone.
“I love you, Steve. Until we meet again, rest in peace, brother. Rest in peace.”
The ceremony ended with Brentwood Police Chief Wayne Robinson presenting an American flag to Arkell’s wife Heather.
Then the final call for Arkell went out over Rockingham County dispatch.
“Officer Stephen Arkell is 10-2 after 15 years of service for the citizens of Brentwood. Although you are gone, you will never be forgotten. End of watch, May 12, 2014. We will have the watch from here. May you rest in peace.”