May 12. 2014 10:44PM

Police officer killed, inferno erupts after father-son dispute in Brentwood

Union Leader Correspondent
New Hampshire Union Leader

The home at 46 Mill Pond Road in Brentwood in flames Monday afternoon. 

Police order a crowd of people to move back as the house at 46 Mill Pond Road goes up in flames Monday afternoon. The officers were trying to make way so fire trucks could be brought in to extinguish the blaze. (HUNTER McGEE PHOTO)

BRENTWOOD — Police and family are searching for answers, after an apparent domestic argument ended with an officer killed and a house burned to the ground in a quiet subdivision Monday.

Witnesses said the events began at 46 Mill Pond Road about 4 p.m. with an argument between Walter Nolan and his adult son, Michael Nolan, that escalated into gunfire.

Attorney General Joseph Foster said Brentwood officer Steve Arkell was “fatally shot as he entered the home.”

“Another officer entered and was driven out by gunfire,” Foster said at a news conference about 10:15 p.m.

He said it is believed Michael Nolan, 47, was the shooter and was killed in the fire that followed the hail of bullets.

Neighbors Susan and Wayne Hughes, who live next door to the Nolans in the Mill Pond Crossing complex, a 55-and-older subdivision, said they didn’t know what the nature of the argument was between father and son, but it became so heated that another neighbor called police.

“When the cop walked into the house, we heard a whole bunch of gunfire,” Susan Hughes said.

At some point, she said the elder Nolan was taken outside by police and placed in handcuffs in the front yard. More officers were summoned and quickly arrived on the scene while an armed Michael Nolan remained in the house.

Arkell was medflighted from the scene.

Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing said his officers were among the first to arrive.

“It’s a tragic event. It shows how dangerous the job of law enforcement is. This could happen to any of us at any time,” he said.

The Hughes and neighbor James Maguire, who lives on the other side of the duplex where the Nolans live, said they heard multiple rounds.

“It sounded kind of automatic — it was bam, bam, bam,” Susan Hughes said. “There was a lot of rapid gunfire — not a shot here or there.”

Eventually, the Hughes were moved by police along with other neighbors to a clubhouse in the complex. While they were waiting, an explosion was heard. Dense smoke could be seen rising from the house, followed by the orange glow of flames. The neighbors were then led to an area across the main road to wait as fire trucks were brought in to extinguish the blaze, which went to four alarms.

The Hughes said they had lived in the neighborhood for about four years. The Nolans moved in shortly after they did.

They said they spoke to Walter Nolan periodically, but hardly ever to Michael Nolan.

“He never really talked to anybody; he stays upstairs with his TV on,” Susan Hughes said.

James Maguire said he had known Walter Nolan for several years, but rarely had contact with Michael Nolan.

“He just stayed away; he was just very, very shy of everything,” Maguire said.

Walter Nolan is in his 80s, according to a relative. Nolan’s wife of nearly 62 years, Elizabeth, passed away two years ago.

Arkell, 48, was a part-time member of the town’s police force who also handled animal control.

Foster said the site would remain under investigation by the State Police’s Major Crimes Unit.

Gov. Maggie Hassan also spoke at the news conference: “I join all Granite Staters in mourning the loss of Officer Arkell, who died doing his job. I know all Granite Staters join me in offering condolences and prayers to his family, loved ones and fellow officers.”

Hassan directed that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Arkell.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte released this statement late Monday night: “This was a senseless and shocking tragedy, and I send my prayers and condolences to Officer Arkell’s family as well as the Brentwood Police Department. Losing a police officer in the line of duty leaves a hole in our hearts that can never be filled, and I pray that Officer Arkell’s family, friends and fellow officers will find strength in the difficult days ahead.”