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Officer killed before N.H. home explodes

Responded to reported domestic dispute

A house exploded and burned in Brentwood, N.H.

AP Photo

A house exploded and burned in Brentwood, N.H.

BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- A 48-year-old police officer was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute here on Monday, in a scene that ended with the house exploding and erupting into flames, according to officials. The dispute may have involved a father and a son.

Officer Steve Arkell was allegedly shot by Michael Nolan at 4 p.m. when he entered Nolan’s home at 46 Mill Pond Road, after neighbors reported a domestic dispute, according to state Attorney General Joseph Foster.

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Nolan, 47, allegedly continued to fire his gun at another officer, forcing him to leave the home. That officer’s name and condition were not released.

Additional officers arrived on the scene to find the home engulfed in flames. It later exploded, according to Foster.

Police believe Nolan died in the fire, Foster said. Nolan is the son of the homeowner, 86-year-old Walter Nolan.

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Arkell had worked for the Brentwood Police Department for about 15 years as a part-time officer. He was married and had two teenaged daughters. He also helped coach the girls’ lacrosse team at Exeter High School, where both of his daughters play.

State Police and the fire marshal were to investigate the scene overnight.

Felisa Blazek, at the scene, said she has lived behind the Mill Pond Road home for about four years. She was inside her house when she said she heard screaming.

“It seemed like a domestic situation between my neighbor and his son,” said Blazek.

Shortly after the argument, Blazek said police arrived and she heard a gunshot.

“At first it was just one, and then there was rapid gun fire,” she said. “It wouldn’t stop.”

She said she and her son ran to the second floor of their home to look out the window. They saw over 100 police officers and SWAT team members on scene.

“They started screaming at us to ‘get out of the house,’ ” she said. “It was scary.”

Blazek said the suspect’s house then erupted in flames.

Ryan O'Leary/The Portsmouth Herald/AP

Officer Steve Arkell, 48, was shot and killed.

The neighbor said she has had trouble with Nolan in the past.

“He’s yelled at my kids while they were playing before and threatened their lives,” said Blazek. “And now look.”

Governor Maggie Hassan issued a statement Monday night and directed flags to 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,” Hassan said. “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. Like so many of our first responders do on a daily basis, Officer Arkell courageously put his life on the line to protect others, and in doing so, was tragically taken far too soon.

“It is now the responsibility of all Granite Staters to honor Officer Arkell’s sacrifice by coming together and doing everything that we can to support those he has left behind.”

Firefighters and police officers from multiple departments had responded to the adult community, where the house is located.

Roads leading to the Mill Pond Crossing community were closed off as State and local police searched the area.

Firefighters continued to douse the home with water hours after it was engulfed in flames.

Residents from the community and the surrounding area were asked to evacuate.

But shortly after 9 p.m., a group of about 15 residents was escorted back to their homes by a state trooper to assess any possible damage.

Children from a neighboring development on Russo Lane came to the scene after they saw the fire on the news, they said.

“We were watching the news,” said Nicole Wellington, 14. “And then all of a sudden we saw the house explode. A few seconds later our whole house shook.”

Patti Kaselauskas, who lives in the development, said she in the evening that she had not been allowed back into her home since about 4:45 p.m.

“I was just coming back from the store and I saw this,” she said. “I just want to go home.”

Watch video of the explosion from WMUR.com.

Below are scenes of the explosion and fire, as posted to social media.

More coverage:

Photos: Fire, explosion in N.H.

Video of the house fire and explosion

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jacktemp. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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