10/18/2006

Murdered N.H. officer "never got to his gun"

By Katharine Webster
Associated Press Writer 

 

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Officer Michael Briggs never got to his gun.

Two other officers returned fire early Monday in the dark alley, but the gunman got away. Briggs was critically wounded; he died Tuesday, the first Manchester police officer killed in the line of duty in 30 years.

Nine years earlier, Briggs was a pallbearer at the funeral of his friend, Jeremy Charron, the last officer killed in New Hampshire.

"Our hearts are broken by the loss of Michael. He was a wonderful son, husband, father, brother and friend," Briggs' family said in a statement. "It is a great honor to know that he was loved by so many."

Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said she plans to charge his accused killer with capital murder and seek the death penalty. New Hampshire's last execution was 67 years ago and no one is on death row.

Briggs, 35, who was married with two sons, was shot 15 minutes before his bicycle patrol shift ended at 3 a.m. Monday. He had responded to a report of a shot fired during a domestic disturbance.

At a news conference Tuesday, authorities said they found the handgun used to kill Briggs, which they said was near the scene. Police Chief John Jaskolka said Briggs' gun was still in its holster.

Briggs knew the area from patrols and he and the suspect, Michael "Stix" Addison, "weren't strangers," said Jeff Strelzin, an assistant attorney general.

Addison, a Manchester man with record of violent crimes, was arrested Monday evening at his grandmother's apartment in Boston. At his arraignment Tuesday in Dorchester District Court, Addison, 26, indicated he would fight his return to New Hampshire, where he had faced an attempted-murder charge. Judge Michael Bolden ordered him held on $2 million bail.

In announcing her decision to seek the death penalty, Ayotte said Briggs "deserves our respect and ... the full protection of our laws."

The last person charged with capital murder was Gordon Perry, who avoided the possibility by pleading guilty to first-degree murder in Charron's death. Charron was gunned down in Epsom while checking a parked car in August 1997.

"We lived this nightmare when Jeremy was shot, and know only too well the pain that you all are feeling," Charron's family said in a message posted to WMUR-TV's Web site.

At the police station named for the last slain Manchester officer, Ralph W. Miller, someone left a red candle, a stuffed puppy and a handwritten sign: "My family is praying for you, Officer Briggs, and your family." About 100 officers saluted as the flag outside was lowered to half-staff.

At the crime scene Tuesday, firefighters washed blood from the street while federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents with dogs searched for evidence.

Briggs, a city police officer for five years, was honored with three other officers for rescuing 19 people from a burning apartment building fire in 2004 only blocks from where he was shot. He also had worked as a correctional officer.

Police arrested another man at the shooting scene on unrelated charges. They said the man, Antoine Bell-Rogers, 21, had gone with Addison to an apartment building Sunday night and fired shots at it repeatedly. Neighbors said the shots narrowly missed a father and son.

According to arrest warrants, the shooting stemmed from threats made by a resident of the building. Both Addison and Rogers were charged, but neither had been arrested when Briggs confronted them.

A third person involved in the alleged shooting, Angela Swist, turned herself in to police Tuesday.

Addison also is charged with robbing a Hudson convenience store at gunpoint last week. Authorities are investigating whether he committed two other armed robberies, in Manchester and Milford, last week.

Addison was arrested in Manchester in 2002 and 2004 for being a fugitive from justice in Massachusetts, where he was wanted for assault and aggravated assault. In 2003, Addison himself was the victim of a shooting; his assailant was sentenced to jail.

Police officers, including about a dozen from Manchester, packed Addison's arraignment, which he listened to from a holding area. His cousin, Tia Wilson, 26, said he has two young daughters with his girlfriend in New Hampshire, The Boston Globe reported.

"He is a good person. He takes care of his kids," Wilson said. "He's innocent until proven guilty."

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Associated Press reporter Beverley Wang contributed to this story.

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