State Troopers line up during the law enforcement walk-through on eve of memorial service for Stephen Arkell, held at Exeter High School in Exeter on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Staff Photographer)
The line of more than 1,000 police officers, state troopers and firefighters stretched far around the front of Exeter High School Tuesday evening, as uniformed law enforcement from across New England gathered to give a final salute to slain Brentwood police officer Stephen Arkell.
Shortly before 6 p.m., the solemn line began to move, as officers filed through the school’s front doors into the gymnasium, where the body of Arkell lay in a casket.
Maj. Christopher Aucoin of New Hampshire State Police, one of several officers who led the organization of the walk-through, said police and firefighters would silently walk in single file past the casket, each one giving a salute to Arkell, who was shot and killed May 12 when he responded to a domestic disturbance call at a Brentwood home.
“It’s a sad day,” acting Concord Police Chief Bradley Osgood said while standing in the long line. “It reminds us all how dangerous police work can be. We go to calls like (Arkell’s) on a daily basis.”
Osgood said 24 of his officers were present at the walk-through; 40 to 50 are planning to attend today’s memorial service.
“Pretty much our entire department will be represented today or tomorrow,” Osgood said. “They come because it’s part of what we do.”
Aucoin said more than 3,000 officers are expected at today’s public memorial service.
Law enforcement of all stripes will begin lining up at New England Dragway on Route 27 at 7 a.m. The 1.9-mile march to Exeter High School will begin at 9:30 a.m. sharp, with scores of officers on foot accompanied by motorcycles and police vehicles.
Gov. Maggie Hassan attended Tuesday’s law enforcement walk-through, walking along the line in front of the school and speaking with officers.
Aucoin said Hassan had confirmed her attendance at today’s memorial, as had U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen. Aucoin said Hassan will speak at the service, as will Col. Robert Quinn of New Hampshire State Police, Brentwood Police Chief Wayne Robinson, Exeter High School Athletic Director Bill Ball and others.
Aucoin said local United Way branches have helped set up water, extra toilets and other services. He said law enforcement leaders including Kensington Police Chief Mike Sielicki, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police; Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan; Epping Police Chief Michael Wallace; and others have played key roles in planning this week’s events to honor and remember Arkell.
“It’s affected all law enforcement,” Aucoin said. “All uniformed services understand it’s a dangerous job.”
State Police Lt. Chris Vetter, who also has helped organize events, said the response has been hard to put into words.
“Amazing — that’s the only way I can really describe it,” Vetter said. “There’s been no shortage of people wanting to be involved in planning this.”
Public calling hours will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at Stockbridge Funeral Home in Exeter.