BRENTWOOD, N.H. — State and federal investigators say they are still trying to piece together answers behind the horrific shooting of a veteran cop in this quiet town and the massive inferno that engulfed the duplex following a father-son argument that quickly spiraled out of control.
Jane Young, chief of the New Hampshire attorney general's criminal bureau, said officials are searching for the cause behind Monday's blaze and explosion that rocked the 55-and-over community shortly after police officer Stephen Arkell was shot and killed entering the Mill Pond Road home for what was reported as "verbal domestic dispute."
What sparked the argument between suspected gunman Michael Nolan, 47, and his elderly father, Walter Nolan, is also being probed and was still a mystery yesterday even to family members.
Richard Florino — Walter Nolan's son-in-law — said he wasn't aware of Michael Nolan ever physically threatening his father or his mother, Elizabeth, before she died two years ago. Walter wasn't known to have a gun in the house, he added.
Young said state law doesn't require residents to register a gun, but does call for permits for concealed weapons. She said federal authorities are helping to track and trace any guns that were in the house.
"On the state side, there doesn't seem to be any prohibition on the weapon at the moment," Young told the Herald.
Investigators will spend the rest of the week at least poring through the charred rubble of the duplex. Young said officials found the body of Arkell, 48, the apparent victim of multiple gunshot wounds, in the front of the home, and the remains of what is believed to be Michael Nolan in the debris where the garage once stood.
The 86-year-old Walter Nolan escaped the home, Young said, shortly after Arkell was gunned down "almost immediately" after entering with the father's permission.
"At this point, it certainly seems that officer Arkell walked into a situation he didn't anticipate," Young said.
Florino said the family is "heartbroken" over Arkell's death, noting they have a relative who is a Revere cop. "We can't imagine the pain his family is going through," he said.
Young laid out a timeline that started with Arkell facing three volleys of gunfire. Fremont police Officer Derek Franek arrived shortly afterward and was met by Walter Nolan on the front lawn.
Franek handcuffed him for what Young said were "safety reasons" and entered the home, where he saw a wall that had been "sprayed with bullets" and a fatally injured Arkell on the floor on his back.
Franek told investigators that gunfire immediately drove him from the front of the house to the back, where he escaped off the porch and took cover in the tree line, Young said. Smoke later began to spew from the back of the house, and within 45 minutes, an explosion shook the entire structure, though Young said the cause of both is "not likely" accidental.
As police were arriving, they had to duck gunfire, allegedly from Michael Nolan, with bullets hitting the roof and nearby homes, Young said. Police, she added, never returned fire.
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