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Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Michael Nolan Murder-Suicide Case

     Michael Nolan lived in his 86-year-old father's house in Brentwood, New Hampshire, a town of 4,200 in the southern part of the state. The 47-year-old son and his father, Walter Nolan, shared a two-story house in a tree-shaded neighborhood restricted to people 55 and older.

     At four in the afternoon of Monday, May 12, 2014, a neighbor on Mill Pond Road called 911 to report shouting and screams coming from the Nolan residence. Ten minutes later, officer Stephen Arkell, a part time, 15-year veteran of the Brentwood Police Department, pulled up to the scene and was let into the house by Walter Nolan, the owner of the dwelling.

     Four minutes after officer Arkell entered the Nolan house, Derek Franek, an officer with the Fremont Police Department, arrived at the scene. Inside the house, officer Arkell, as he spoke to the old man, was shot and killed by the old man's son, Michael Nolan. When officer Franek entered the dwelling through the front entrance, Michael Nolan opened fire on him. Both the Fremont officer and the senior Mr. Nolan managed to escape the house without being shot. Once outside, officer Franek radioed that an officer was down, and that he had been fired upon by someone inside the Nolan dwelling.

     Officer Franek's urgent call brought a New Hampshire state SWAT unit and the Seacoast Regional Emergency Response Team. Walter Nolan, the 86-year-old owner of the house, in a state of shock and unable to communicate coherently with police officers, was taken by ambulance to Exeter Hospital.

     Inside the police-surrounded house, Michael Nolan poured gasoline throughout the dwelling, lit a match, then began shooting out a window at the SWAT officers. When the SWAT police fired back, a bullet hit a propane gas line that touched off a massive explosion.

     At six o'clock that evening, thirty minutes after the propane blast blew off a third of the Nolan house roof, firefighters began dousing the charred structure with water. Firefighters remained on the scene until nine-thirty that night.

    Cause and origin arson investigators combing through the debris found Michael Nolan's remains. Lying next to his body the officers found three handguns, three rifles, and a cache of ammunition.

     Brentwood police officer Stephen Arkell, killed in the line of duty, left behind a wife and two teenage daughters. He was 48-years-old.

     Although a forensic pathologist performed an autopsy on Michael Nolan, the medical examiner's office did not immediately reveal if he had been shot to death by the SWAT police, died in the fire, or had killed himself.

     According to neighbors, Michael Nolan rarely spoke to anyone, and spent most of his time in his room watching television. Police officers had not been called to the Nolan residence in the past, and Michael did not have a criminal record.

     In May 2015, the authorities, under pressure from the local media, released the results of the joint investigation of the case by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, the State Police Major Crime Unit, and the ATF. According to the report, Mr. Nolan had shot himself to death before the house exploded. In the report he was described as a "stressed out" alcoholic gun enthusiast.

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