By Scott Brooks
Union Leader Staff
The Union Leader
Copyright 2006 Union Leader Corp.
All Rights Reserved
[Officer Down: Michael Briggs]
MANCHESTER- Officer Michael Briggs has collected his share of honors over the years. As a Marine, he received the two medals and the Meritorious Mast. As a policeman, he was called a hero after he rushed into a burning building to save a wheelchair-bound teenager and her caregiver.
Yesterday, the law enforcement community honored him once more with its prayers, its grief and a wealth of fond memories.
"It's a very sad day for us and the city of Manchester," said Todd Boucher, president of the Manchester Police Patrolman's Association.
Briggs took a gunshot to the head early yesterday morning while on duty outside a center-city apartment building. Friends and co-workers feared his injury could be life-threatening.
Among law enforcers, Briggs is known as a constant professional. He is tough, they say, but also caring. As a bicycle patrolman, he answered tough calls but also found time to talk with children in the neighborhood.
"He just cares for the people in the community here," said Dan Prince, who works at Super Wrench Car Care on Lake Avenue.
In July 2004, Briggs and another policeman, John Breckinridge, risked their lives inside a burning apartment building on Union Street. Before firefighters could arrive, the two officers ran into the building, where the smoke was thickest, and pounded on doors, yelling, "Fire," in both English and Spanish.
Later, they learned an elderly woman and a wheelchair-bound, blind teenager were still inside the building. The two policemen and a pair of firefighters rushed back into the building and saved them.
"In my eyes, this guy and his partner were true heroes that night," said Manchester Fire Department Lt. Pete Franggos, one of the firefighters who worked with Briggs that night. "No air bottles, no mask, no helmet, and they put themselves in jeopardy. This guy was a true public servant."
Briggs was born in Manchester and grew up in Epsom. After graduating from Pembroke Academy in 1990, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He served from 1991 to 1995, ultimately achieving the rank of corporal.
Briggs next served six years as a correctional officer at the Hillsborough County jail.
"Michael is all business," said Jim O'Mara, superintendent of the county Department of Corrections. "He is very, very professional.
In many ways, leaving the military and coming to corrections and law enforcement is a natural progression, and so it was very easy for him."
Almost immediately, O'Mara said, Briggs stuck out as a leader among his co-workers. O'Mara said he was proud but sorry to see
Briggs leave the department to join the Manchester police in 2001.
"I can tell you I did have a conversation with then-Chief (Mark) Driscoll and asked him to stop stealing my good guys," O'Mara said.
Co-workers on the city police force found Briggs to be exceptionally dedicated. He patrolled the streets on his bicycle from 6 p.m. until 3 a.m., even in the snow.
"He's a real hard-working street cop," Boucher said. "He was out there in the thick of it, every night."
Briggs lives in Concord with his wife, Laura. The 35-year-old has two children: an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old.
Union Leader Staff Reporter Mark Hayward contributed to this report.
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