“Oh my God, the house just blew up,” Pauline Raiche, who lives next door, told the Herald as the drama played out late yesterday afternoon. “The whole thing is gone and the fire is awful.”

The nightmare on Mill Pond Road began when police were called to a domestic argument just after 4 p.m. at the house where 86-year-old Walter Nolan lived with his son, Michael.

Susan and Wayne Hughes, who live next door, told the New Hampshire Union Leader it got so loud that another neighbor called the police.

“When the cop walked into the house, we heard a whole bunch of gunfire,” Susan Hughes told the newspaper. “It sounded kind of automatic — it was bam, bam, bam. There was a lot of rapid gunfire — not a shot here or there.”

Officials reported late last night that part-time Brentwood police officer Steve Arkell, 48, a father of two daughters, was killed.

The suspected shooter, Michael Nolan, is believed to have died in the fire or the explosion after other police officers were driven out of the house by gunfire, officials said.

Neighbors said that as police filled the neighborhood, they saw the elder Nolan taken out and handcuffed.

The house began burning, setting fire to surrounding trees, and then exploded, blowing out walls, doors and windows, and shifting the structure on its foundation. A utility worker on the scene said he believed a car in the garage caught fire and exploded.

Neighbor Mariellen Culbertson, who lives a block away, said fire departments were still working at 9:30 p.m. putting out the fire.

“It was pretty traumatic. We started hearing gunshots, there was a huge explosion, and then the fire engulfed the entire place,” Culbertson said.

She said the residents of the community, many of whom were initially evacuated, felt like they were being “held hostage,” with no clear idea of what had happened.

“You hear one story then you hear another story,” she added. “It’s a crime scene right now.”

James Culbertson, 73, said the elder Nolan “seemed like a nice guy.”

Susan Hughes told the Union Leader that Michael Nolan “never really talked to anybody; he stays upstairs with his TV on.”

The newspaper reported that Walter Nolan’s wife died two years ago, and Michael Nolan’s died of cancer in 2008.

Townspeople said they were shocked something like this could happen in their town, let alone at an adult community,

“I would never expect that. It’s a 55-plus community,” said Erin Swift, 22, who lives nearby. “I heard the explosion. I didn’t hear the gunshots but I heard the explosion.”

Swift said the sound of sirens followed for almost two hours, as cruiser after cruiser raced in.

“From 4 to 6 it was nonstop,” Swift said. “They were streaming in.”

Hoses continued to dowse hot spots around the blaze hours later as plainclothes officers in body armor prowled the area.

Those who live in the small community where the fire happened were told they would not be allowed to return to their homes last night. A Danville, N.H., firefighter walked out of the scene carrying a plastic bag of prescription pills for an elderly couple who were evacuated.

“You can’t go back tonight,” the firefighter said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: