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Rural tragedy: How a small town lost its first officer

“Greater love has no one than this — that someone lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13

Each year many officers lose their lives attempting to keep communities safe so that the majority of citizens can take for granted the ability to sleep sound, allow their families to walk down the street unharmed, know their property is protected, and in most areas simply live a good, quality of life.

Brentwood, N.H. fits the bill of a rural, mostly peaceful town filled with citizens going about their daily business.

With a population of around 4,000 people, the citizens rest easy knowing they’re in a safe place. It is so safe, in fact, that you can request the local police department to check your home while you are away on vacation, and the department and its officers will place as much effort into safely returning a child’s lost pet as they would hunting a violent criminal.

Tragedy in Brentwood
On the evening of May 12, 2014 Brentwood Police received a call reporting that Walter Nolan and son Michael Nolan were arguing at a duplex located in an area that was designated for people over age 55.

Michael Nolan was described by locals as a 47-year-old “odd duck” recluse with no criminal record who lived with — and always argued with — his father. The officer that responded to that call was 48-year-old part-time officer Steve Arkell. Officer Arkell grew up in Brentwood and worked part-time for the Brentwood Police Department for 15 years.

Officer Arkell responded to the address — which had no past complaints — and was allowed into the home by Walter Nolan. Arkell was immediately met with what was described by witnesses as intense rapid gunfire from Michael Nolan, who was positioned in the second story of the duplex.

By the time backup arrived Arkell was observed lying on the floor and already succumbed to gunshot wounds. Nolan then continued to shoot at the backup officer, forcing him to retreat from the scene. Michael Nolan then started several small fires in the home, enough to overwhelm the sprinkler system. The combination of fires, and natural gas line leaks caused by the intense shooting eventually caused the home to explode, killing Michael Nolan who was later located in the garage.

Officer Arkell lost his life in the incident, leaving behind his wife and two daughters.

The loss of a law enforcement officer’s life in any community is always a tragic event. When it happens in a smaller community and to a person well-respected and dedicating their time to improving the quality of life both in and out of uniform, it leaves an empty space.

When many officers are making attempts to fly under radar in their communities, Arkell was known by all —as a local resident that grew up in the community, but also well-known because of the many roles that Arkell had in making Brentwood a better place to live. In addition to wearing the badge, Arkell was known to be a master carpenter, animal control officer, as well as a coach of soccer, lacrosse, and baseball.

Arkell was rumored to have used his own money to pay for food for many lost and stray pets. Arkell was also a highly-respected coach — a lacrosse net was placed next to his casket at the funeral by the teens he coached.

It’s a good reflection of a man that was identified as much by the uniform he wore, as he was by the other positive things that Arkell had done to serve the community he grew up in. It would be difficult to find a Brentwood resident who has not somehow been affected by the good deeds that Steven Arkell has done throughout his short life.

One of those good deeds was becoming a part-time officer for the Brentwood Police Department, a position likely utilized to take some of the workload off of the full time staff there and allow them to enjoy vacation, or have an extra officer to help out when things get busy or otherwise understaffed.

Though we have no way of knowing what the future had in store for the community of Brentwood, perhaps it was the path of this “part-timer” and good citizen to provide the ultimate service to his community by giving his life so that an “odd duck” like Michael Nolan did not get the opportunity to exercise his homicidal tendencies on the good citizens of Brentwood at a later date, perhaps resulting in even more tragedy and loss of life?

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Patrick (Pat) Novesky has spent most of his life working in a rural environment not only in law enforcement, but also has been employed as a wildland firefighter working several states and as a guide for a hunting outfitter. Pat’s law enforcement background consists of a 20 year career ranging from positions as a sheriff’s deputy, ranger, and police officer holding assignments as intelligence officer and investigator. Pat has also been assigned to two narcotics task forces. Pat has served as a police firearms and Verbal Judo instructor and has been involved with various training for all types of law enforcement & other users of the outdoors and remote areas. The past several years of Pat’s career have been spent working as a conservation officer in Northern Wisconsin. Pat’s goal is to bring a common sense approach to issues that pertain to the rural law enforcement officer. Contact Patrick Novesky