NH's police brotherhood closes ranks for fallen Brentwood officer
KENSINGTON — Police from across the state, region and the country will be in Brentwood this week, as part of a solemn gathering of black arm bands, bagpipe players and somber faces.
They are coming to honor Brentwood Police Officer Stephen Arkell, who was shot and killed on May 12 when he entered a home on Mill Pond Road answering a domestic disturance call.
A patrolman with the Brentwood Police Department for a dozen years, Arkell’s death was met with shock and sadness but also with immediate action by his brothers and sisters in blue who began covering shifts at the Brentwood Police Department while also organizing his memorial service and making sure that his wife and two daughters are helped.
The eighth New Hampshire police officer shot and killed in the line of duty in the past 20 years, Arkell’s death comes a little more than two years since Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney was shot to death when he and other officers were serving a warrant at the home of a suspected drug dealer.
The deaths of Maloney and Arkell struck the Kensington Police Department and its chief, Michael Sielicki, hard, both because Greenland and Brentwood are geographically close to Kensington and because Sielicki knows what it’s like to lose colleagues to gunfire.
Currently the president of the NH Association of Chiefs of Police, Sielicki back on Aug. 19, 1997, was the chief of the Colebrook Police Department when Carl Drega shot and killed New Hampshire State Troopers Scott Phillips and Leslie Lord in the parking lot of LaPerle’s IGA supermarket.
Drega, who had a running dispute with local government officials in the North Country, then stole Phillips’ cruiser and drove into downtown Colebrook where he shot and killed both Colebrook District Court Judge Vickie Bunnell and Dennis Joos, the editor of the Colebrook News and Sentinel newspaper.
Before he was killed in a shoot-out in nearby Bloomfield, Vt., Drega shot and injured a NH Fish & Game warden, two more NH state troopers as well as a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Sielicki said that he’s never forgotten that day.
“Scott and Leslie helped train me when I was in Colebrook and Scott was my neighbor,” he said. “We were very good friends with everybody and we knew Dennis and Vicky very well.”
“Tragedy happens all over the state,” Sielicki continued, and now it has happened, again, on the Seacoast.
Immediately after the shooting of Arkell was reported, Sielicki and Kensington police officers drove to Brentwood where they set up a perimeter around the suspect house until a SWAT team arrived.
He and his officers moved back, Sielicki said, “just before the house exploded,” adding “we felt bad that we couldn’t get him (Arkell) out of the house and we feel very badly and our hearts go out to his family and department because I particularly know what they’re going through.”
While unable to do anything more at the scene, Sielicki began coordinating the anticipated heavy turnout of police officers who are expected to attend Arkell’s memorial services later this week.
“From what we’re hearing, there’ll be from 3,000 to 4,000 people from all over the country,” said Sielicki, among them “a very-large contingent from New Hampshire.”
Lincoln Police Chief Ted Smith and his officers will be among that contingent.
Also vice president of the New England Association of Chiefs of Police, Smith said that the association, as it does in every such instance, will donate $2,500 to the Arkell family to help them with immediate financial needs.
Although he did not know Arkell or work with Brentwood police previously, Smith said none of that matters.
“If you shoot a police officer, you’re shooting a representative of the state so we all look at that, that it could be someone here, so we all mourn that death.”
Smith offered his and his department’s “thoughts and prayers “to the Arkell family, the Town of Brentwood and to the Brentwood Police Department.
Pat Sullivan, who officially retired as chief of the Goffstown Police Department on May 12, said a fund has been established to benefit the Arkell family and that donations can be made to the Mrs. Stephen Arkell Fund, c/o TD Bank, 53 Church St., Kingston, NH 03848. He added that an online fund is also being developed.
“I just got done with a 32-year career and as chief, one of the things that you lose sleep over, that you think about, is somebody getting hurt,” said Sullivan. “When that happens, it basically erodes the safety and well-being of the entire community and by community I mean the state; it’s a loss. And as to the brotherhood, to see the outpouring of support, ranks don’t matter. It’s just one family and we’re all there to support Officer Arkell and his family.”
Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency will also be at the memorial for Arkell, adding “I’ve been to every officer funeral since I’ve been on in 1984.”
Morency said it’s important to remember fallen officers and their families, something that the Berlin Police Department has done with its “Call to Duty” Memorial honoring Officers Robert Devoid and Dorman Wheelock, both of whom were killed on April 23, 1970, in a head-on collision, and Sgt. Paul Brodeur, who died on Aug. 13, 1975, from a heart attack while responding to a call.
Just as Berlin’s fallen officers will always be remembered, so now, too, will Arkell, said Morency.
Arkell’s death, Morency said, “is a tragedy and his family should know and must know that the entire community stands behind them and alongside them. Their loss is our loss.”
Tilton Police Chief Bob Cormier echoed that sentiment.
“It’s going to be hard on law enforcement in New Hampshire for a while and we still have to come together and mourn together at the walk-through and memorial service.”
Like Smith, Cormier said he didn’t know Arkell, “but we’re all family.”
Arkell’s death, he said, “strikes at the heart of everything in the law-enforcement community.”
“Over my career — I’m in my 32nd year – I’ve been to numerous law-enforcement funerals and you always hope that there isn’t another one,” said Cormier. “We never want something like this to happen. Steve Arkell made the supreme sacrifice and we’ll be mourning his loss and trying to do whatever we can as a law-enforcement family to take care of the Brentwood Police Department and that community.”
Arkell’s death, he noted, “really hits home for us because we do to those kinds of calls day in and day out and it reminds us how dangerous they can be.”
Sielicki said the brotherhood of police men and women will always be there for each other, in good times and bad, but “Unfortunately, this happens way too often in New Hampshire,” he said of an officer being injured or killed while on duty, “and at some point we’d like to see it stop.”