By Rik Stevens
BRENTWOOD, N.H. — The New Hampshire police officer fatally shot by a man who later died in a roaring house fire was invited into the home by the gunman's father during an argument and was immediately cut down without a chance to draw his weapon, authorities said Tuesday.
The state attorney general's office said Brentwood Police Officer Stephen Arkell died before the conflagration that destroyed the duplex on a quiet suburban street and claimed the life of the suspected gunman, 47-year-old Michael Nolan. Gunshots through the walls and roof of the house sent neighbors and other officers fleeing for cover.
Arkell's body was found on the first floor while Nolan's was found in the garage area. Nolan's father, 86-year-old Walter Nolan, was treated at a hospital and released.
A second officer, Derek Franek, responded minutes later from the neighboring Fremont Police Department and found Arkell dead on the floor near a bullet-sprayed wall. Franek escaped out the back as Nolan opened fire on him and did not return fire.
Autopsies are being conducted on Arkell and Nolan.
Arkell, who was married and had two teenage daughters, had worked for the Brentwood Police Department for about 15 years as a part-time officer. He helped coach the girls' lacrosse team at Exeter High School, where both of his daughters play.
Authorities said police had never been called to the house before and that Nolan had no criminal record. People in the neighborhood for residents 55 and older told police the father and son had argued before.
About half an hour after the shooting, the house burst into flames and video showed flames eating through the roof of the modern yellow building. Firefighters were kept away from the scene and soon a massive explosion blew the front off the house. Within an hour, it was leveled.
Gov. Maggie Hassan directed that flags fly at half-staff in honor of Arkell.
"The entire state of New Hampshire is in mourning over the tragic loss of Brentwood Officer Steve Arkell," she said in a statement. "Officer Arkell bravely answered the call of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice, a heroic demonstration of his commitment to the safety of his fellow citizens."
Among those extending their condolences was the police department in Greenland, about 20 miles away, which lost its police chief, Michael Maloney in a hail of gunfire during an April 2012 drug raid.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with our Brothers and Sisters in Brentwood," the department posted on its Facebook page.
Neighbor Wayne Hughes told the Portsmouth Herald that police responded to the house after neighbors heard an argument Monday afternoon and called 911. His wife, Susan, said she saw a police officer arrive at the home and then heard "rapid gunfire."
Firefighters started attacking the blaze around 6 p.m. It was largely out about a half-hour later and didn't appear to have spread to neighboring houses though some houses were damaged by bullets and some residents are not yet able to go home.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press