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My way of coping with a tragedy

An officer talks about the day he watched a chief die in the line of duty, and how he and his family got through it

Editor's Note: As part of our year-end coverage, we look back at some of the biggest and most heroic news stories, and reconnect with some of the officers and departments involved in the incidents to find out what has developed since, and how the department has faired in the days and months following.


In this article, Officer Officer Charles Law of the Stratham (N.H.) Police Department recalls the day Chief Michael Maloney of the Greenland Police Department was killed in the line of duty.

By Officer Charles Law
Stratham Police Department

Things are not what you expect after an officer involved shooting. Hearing the crackle over the radio “officers down” and gunshots in the background is one of the most eerie feelings.

Things were about to unfold into a perfect storm.

Greenland police carry the body of their chief during a memorial service for Police Chief Michael Maloney. N.H. Maloney was days away from retirement when he was fatally shot. (AP Photo)
Greenland police carry the body of their chief during a memorial service for Police Chief Michael Maloney. N.H. Maloney was days away from retirement when he was fatally shot. (AP Photo)

What I was responding to was one of the worst law enforcement incidents that happened in the State of New Hampshire.

When I arrived on scene, within minutes I put on my SWAT vest and had my long gun ready to return fire. I could not return fire because I had no target actuation or did I know if there were any hostages or officers in the residence.

I was personally in the line of fire on the day Chief Michael Maloney of the Greenland Police Department, who I had known for 18 years, was killed in the line of duty.

I witnessed what every cop fears — another law enforcement officer killed in front of my eyes.

Shots were still being fired.

I also had two seriously wounded officers that needed to be evacuated ASAP — or at least one of them was not going to make it. I later learned that one of the officers only had a 25 percent chance of survival.

I think about the incident every day and how things might have been different. This tragic incident was a true reminder that our profession in law enforcement is inherently dangerous and every officer in the nation should take their training seriously.

Remember you are a warrior and you need to have the win mind set.

There are different ways to deal with emotions that come along with an officer involved shooting.

I like to exercise, lift weights, and run which keeps my frustration level down. Also I went for long rides on my Harley along the coast. I tried to keep myself busy around my house by doing odd jobs and spending time with family which kept my mind off the incident.

The hardest part of trying to keep my mind off the incident was when I had nothing to do on my days off and I was home alone, my daughter was at school and my wife was working. I sought counseling which helped a lot because I could talk about the incident to other officers who could relate to the tragedy.

I spoke with one particular officer who called me the next day after the shooting who was a peer support person.

I learned a lot through this officer because he had experience and had seen another officer die right in front of him. He stills calls today and we talk about the incident. There are specialized trained officers in this country that can help through these incidents.

Officers who have been involved in officer shootings know what I am talking about. Those of us who are part of a regional SWAT team (such as myself) were a huge support to me by either calling or texting me to make sure I was doing alright.

There is nothing in the world like a SWAT team — these guys would give me the shirts off their back to help me out. Our team is so close knit that you could call guy at 0200 in morning and he would come and help you.

My wife (Kim) and daughter (Kadence) have been great although my daughter is really too young to understand what happened. The incident definitely made our family stronger. My wife went to crisis intervention center for the wives who had officers directly involved.

It took me four days to tell my wife what I witnessed that night. I just felt at the time I was not ready to tell her what I had seen. She asked a lot of questions that I had to answer and I told her not to listen to the news or people at work.

When I returned to work I was not as motivated as I was prior to the incident. From what I have been told that is normal after such a tragic event. Every day is a new day and I try to cope with tragedy by talking with the other officers who are very close to me.

As far as the officers involved who were shot, we have talked about the incident. Three are back to work and one is still recovering.

A message to all officers: Prior to your shift kiss your loved ones goodbye and don’t take life for granted.

I wear my medal on my uniform every day, not because I think I am a hero, but because it is a true reminder that Chief Michael Maloney lost his life in the line of duty.

As far as I am concerned, he is the true hero. He made the ultimate sacrifice doing the job he loved almost until the day of his retirement.

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