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An officer's virtue: Tell Michael Briggs' story

November 09. 2013 12:40AM

At about 2:45 a.m. on Oct 16, 2006, with just 15 minutes left on their shift, Manchester Police Officers Michael Briggs and John Breckinridge spotted two suspects, wanted for a recent crime spree, in an alley. Briggs knew one of the suspects, Michael Addison, having treated him for a gunshot wound on a different Manchester street three years before.

Officer Briggs yelled, "Stop! Police!" twice, but Addison only slowed his pace. When Briggs was within arm's length, he yelled his command a third time. Addison spun around, raised a handgun to Briggs' head, and fired.

Officer Briggs died the next day. Michael Addison was convicted of capital murder in a trial in Manchester. Last week, the state Supreme Court upheld his capital murder conviction, rejecting all of his claims, including this interesting one: The trial was inherently unfair because it was held in Manchester, where Officer Briggs was known as a great public servant.

Addison's attorneys argued that there was a "prejudice inherent in holding a capital murder trial before jurors drawn from the community that suffered the loss of Officer Briggs." They claimed that "the bond between the community and the highly decorated police officer who protected it" made a fair trial in Manchester impossible. They even admitted to the court that their client was not nearly the man his victim had been. The trial presented the "rare case in which the victim is so beloved by the community, the defendant so reviled...."

Addison had spent the previous week boasting about wanting to "pop a cop." It was clear from his statements that he had spent a long time mentally dehumanizing anyone with a badge. In court, his attorneys presented a different view.

They acknowledged that their client had removed from this earth a good and beloved man of surpassing value to the community he served (not to mention to his family).

There is no telling how much of this Michael Addison believed. But his attorneys would have discussed with him this line of argument. The idea would have entered his mind and floated around there awhile. After all, it was a point on which his life might depend.

If he is capable of reflection, Addison must have spent some time in the last seven years mulling the contrast between himself and the better man he took away. Though we can never know how he processed those thoughts, if he did at all, it is clear that Michael Briggs' short life of public service created a powerful bond with the city he served and that the city's reaction to Briggs' loss made an impression upon Addison.

Briggs never got through to Addison while Briggs lived. But if his death made Addison see, even for a fleeting moment, the value of a virtuous life, imagine how many thousands of young men and women in the city are inspired by Briggs' story every time it is retold.

The story of Michael Briggs' service to this city can be retold every time a kid asks for whom the police station was named, or who wore the number 83, Briggs' badge number, which hangs on the outfield wall of the Fisher Cats' stadium - or every time his killer gets his name in the news. Maybe if we continue telling Briggs' story, we can inspire more kids to live by his example and help fight the cancerous dehumanization of police officers that still lingers in some dark corners of the city.

Crime, law and justice Public Safety Editorial Manchester

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