Before the whirring cameras of media from all over New England, representatives from the Attorney General’s office laid out new details Tuesday about the harrowing incident that claimed a police officer’s life and that of the suspected gunman.
Yesterday, a 48-year-old Steven Arkell, a 15-year veteran of the Brentwood police force, husband and father of two lost his life while responding to a domestic dispute. At 4:04 Arkell was sent to respond to a verbal domestic dispute between 86-year-old Walter Nolan and his 47-year-old son Michael.
“The caller indicated that they could hear the son swearing at the father, but that the argument was taking place in the house,” said Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, “There was also an indication that although the police had never been called before, that this individual had heard arguing before.”
Investigators say at this time they have no evidence of criminal records, mental health problems, or even motor vehicle violations.
When Officer Arkell arrived at the scene, Walter Nolan let him in. Officials believe he was met with gunfire from the son, Michael Nolan.
“It certainly seemed that officer Arkell walked into a situation that he didn’t anticipate,” explained Young. “This is a pretty quiet town. It’s 4 o’clock on a Monday. As somebody said, this doesn’t happen here.”
Police don’t know if Arkell had a chance to draw his weapon.
A Second Officer Enters the House
Just minutes later a second officer, Derek Franek from Fremont, arrived at the scene. Police say Franek handcuffed Walter Nolan outside of the house after Nolan was unable or unwilling to respond to questions.
Franek, who knew shots had been fired, then entered the house, only to see a wall that had been peppered with bullets and officer Arkell’s body, lying face up. Police say officer Franek determined that Arkell was already dead, but before he could recover the body, Michael Nolan again opened fire.
“He indicated that he immediately was met with gunfire,” said Young, “That gunfire drove him from the front of the house to back of the house where he was able to escape off the deck and he went to the tree line.”
Franek was uninjured, and called for back-up.
Young praised the officer’s bravery. “The courage that he had to walk into that situation alone, try to do what he could to help his fellow officer, get out and call for back up is heroic.”
More police began to arrive, setting up a perimeter around the house, and twenty minutes after Franek’s call for help smoke began to billow from the home. Police say gunfire continued to come out of the house: some shots hit neighbor’s homes, and others appeared to have been fired through the roof, but officers did not return fire.
At ten minutes of six, an hour after the house was first set ablaze, and an hour and a half after officer Arkell is believed to have been shot, a massive explosion ripped through the house.
The building was a duplex, and though the other family did escape unharmed police say their pets were killed in the blaze.
Young says investigator are not yet sure what caused the explosion, or if the fire was deliberate, but added “I think that based on what we saw, accidental was probably not likely. We understand that this is a new community that’s here. Propane is what is the heating source and the cooking source for a number of the residents so I think that is one area that they will look at.”
Police say positive identification and cause of death for the two bodies found in the rubble of the home will take time, but the body presumed to be Michael Nolan was found in the garage.
A joint investigation with state and local police as well as the FBI and ATF will continue this week, including questions for Walter Nolan, father of the alleged shooter. Walter Nolan was released from Exeter hospital with no injuries, and is staying with family.
Steven Arkell was a part-time police officer. He also worked construction with his brother, coached lacrosse for his daughter’s high school team, and served as Brentwood’s animal control officer.
Lieutenant David Roy with the Brentwood PD grew up with Arkell, and says he will be sorely missed.
“I’ve always kind of considered him as a peace-maker, that was what Steve was like,” said Roy, “He loved to be able to talk to people and help them work their problems out, and I think he was really good at it.”
Roy remembers playing youth hockey and baseball with Arkell, and says he was a fantastic athlete.
“It was kind of like a competition… he was always better than me,” remembers Roy.
Arkell leaves behind his wife Heather and their two daughters.
Investigators expect to be on the scene at least through Friday.