- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

EXETER, N.H. (AP) - Thousands of police officers and mourners packed the stadium at Exeter High School for Wednesday’s memorial for a New Hampshire police officer who was shot to death last week when he responded to a domestic disturbance call.

Students, parents and officers along with Gov. Maggie Hassan gathered under a brilliant sky for the midmorning service for Brentwood Officer Stephen Arkell. During the 90-minute ceremony, speakers circled one theme: Arkell was a loving father and husband, a cop and a coach who was devoted to serving his community.

Brentwood Lt. David Roy was a lifelong friend of Arkell’s and made an emotional address, speaking directly to Arkell’s family.

“He was as dedicated to this job as anyone,” Roy said. “Make no mistake: Steve cared.”

Hassan called Arkell, who was 48, a “true Granite State hero.”

“We come here today to mourn a brave soul taken from this earth far too soon,” the governor said. “The hole torn in our hearts and in the very fabric of our state from Steve’s loss will take time to heal, will take us leaning on each other and loving one another.

“But the vibrancy of Steve’s life, his works, his service, will never fade. He is here with us today and will be here always,” Hassan said.

Police say Michael Nolan, 47, killed Arkell after the officer was invited into the home by Nolan’s 86-year-old father, Walter Nolan. Michael Nolan died in a fire that he set in the house and that ultimately caused a propane-fueled explosion.

A second officer, Fremont’s Derek Franek, went into the home minutes after Arkell was killed. Franek was immediately fired upon by the younger Nolan and forced to escape out a back door.

On Wednesday, the scoreboard at Eustis Field bore the words “Officer Arkell,” which flanked his badge number, 87. The girls’ lacrosse team that Arkell helped coach marched onto the football field wearing their pale blue uniforms with 87 on the back.

The crowd stood silent as the ceremony started and color guards from dozens of police agencies marched in unison into the high school, preparing to enter the stadium. Soon, columns of police officers in dress uniforms, led by a pipe and drum corps, walked into the stadium and took their seats in the rows of plastic, folding chairs, some 4,000 of them laid out with military precision.

To the left of the podium, set on a sideline straddling the 50-yard line, a lacrosse goal stood with two sticks crossed on the ground inside it.

Arkell’s widow, Heather, and daughters, Kimberly and Lauren, were escorted to their seats in the front row by police officers. A silver hearse followed by two black limousines carried Arkell’s flag-covered casket to the stadium where an honor guard of his fellow Brentwood officers walked it onto the field and placed it on a bier in front of the crowd.

Exeter Athletic Director William Ball called Arkell “a common man with uncommon values.

“What Steve Arkell possessed, you can’t buy in a store,” he said. “They don’t sell integrity. They don’t sell character. And you just can’t purchase sense of duty.”

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