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New Hampshire police chief's shooting leaves town stunned

In tiny Greenland, which has only a handful of law enforcement officers, his death is a cruel blow: 'It's not supposed to happen here.'

April 13, 2012|By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times
  • Greenland, N.H., Police Chief Michael Maloney, shown in an undated photo, was shot and killed Thursday while helping serve an arrest warrant.
Greenland, N.H., Police Chief Michael Maloney, shown in an undated photo,… (Greenland Police Department )

NEW YORK — Michael Maloney was just eight days from retiring as police chief of the tiny town of Greenland, N.H. — just eight days from leaving 26 years in law enforcement for the freedom to golf, fish, enjoy his family and maybe find another job. But there was one thing he needed to do.

It was a thankless task: helping to serve a warrant on a man with a rap sheet that included assault and drug charges. And it was the kind of job Maloney insisted on doing himself rather than leaving to others, say those who knew the chief, who was killed by a bullet to the head as he carried out his final mission Thursday.

Maloney, 48, was one of five officers shot as they tried to enter Cullen Mutrie's home. The other four came from neighboring law enforcement agencies and were part of an attorney general's drug task force. Two were treated and released; two others remained hospitalized Friday and were expected to survive.

New Hampshire was stunned by the shootings, which led to an overnight standoff that ended with Mutrie dead of a gunshot wound. New Hampshire has lost only two law enforcement officers in the line of duty since 2000, the FBI says. The last time was in May 2007, according to ODMP.org, the Officer Down Memorial Page, which monitors deaths of law enforcement officers nationwide.

"Chief Maloney was a working chief that would never ask his officers to do something that he wouldn't do," Greenland's town administrator, Karen Anderson, who had worked with him closely for six years, told The Times. "He led by example, and it was normal for him to participate in police activities."

In one of her last conversations with Maloney, he told her "there was one more matter that he could not talk about, that he would take care of" before retiring April 20, Anderson told reporters in Greenland's Town Hall. "He was there last night with them — that was it," said an official standing with her when asked what that last "matter" might have been.

Outside, the flag was at half-staff as the sun rose and word spread of the night's carnage. The violence was a particular shock for quiet Greenland, where the population is about 3,500 and the police force numbers just seven, in addition to the chief. Its last recorded homicide was in 2004, according to police records.

Mutrie's name was on some of Greenland's police reports. In 2010, he was charged with assaulting his then-girlfriend after allegedly "grabbing her hair and her right arm." He was found guilty, given a suspended 30-day sentence, and ordered to undergo an anger-management evaluation.

Last year, he was charged with possession of controlled narcotics, including anabolic steroids. In 2005, when Mutrie was living in Seabrook, N.H., police refused to grant him a license to carry a firearm because of earlier problems with the law.

Mutrie also spent time as a member of the nearby Hampton Falls Fire Department. "After a few years of very limited participation, Mr. Mutrie resigned from the department to pursue other interests in July 2010," the town's fire chief, Jay M. Lord, said in a statement.

Lord said Mutrie, 29, never had disciplinary problems while with the department. "This is what ... can happen when people go in the wrong direction," he told reporters of Mutrie, whose Facebook page listed his main interests as "school," "anything exciting," and "working out."

Lee Miller, who lives about 30 feet from Mutrie's home, heard the gunshots and saw at least one of the victims lying in the driveway as others performed first aid. Miller told reporters that Mutrie was a nightmare neighbor who "terrorized" others on the street and whose home was a frequent scene of loud fights and traffic screaming in and out at all hours. Miller told the Boston Herald she had seen Mutrie shooting at groundhogs in his backyard.

His mother, Beverly Mutrie of Hampton Falls, said, "All I can say is it's a shame," reported the Boston Herald, which added that she would not say when she had last spoken to her son.

Police did not immediately identify a woman found dead of a gunshot wound in the house with Mutrie, and they said they were not sure whether the pair died in a murder-suicide or a double suicide. The state attorney general, Michael Delaney, said their bodies were found shortly after 2 a.m.

Delaney said gunfire erupted as officers tried to enter the house to serve the warrant at 6 p.m. A negotiating team "had some brief conversation" with Mutrie in an attempt to end the standoff as Maloney and the wounded officers were taken away by ambulances. "But that conversation ended shortly thereafter, and for a long period of the evening there was no contact with the individuals inside the residence," Delaney said at a news conference.

After hours of silence, a robot equipped with a camera was sent into the house and detected the bodies.

"It's a blow to all of us. It's New Hampshire. It's Greenland. It's not supposed to happen here," said John Penacho, chairman of Greenland's Board of Selectmen. His words echoed the shock of everyone from New Hampshire's governor to the Buckhorn Diner waitress who often served Maloney.

"He was a wonderful man," the waitress, Janet Grant, told CBS, adding that the police chief always had a smile on his face when he dropped by for a piece of pie.

"Eight days away from retiring," said Jason MacKenzie, owner of the Suds N' Soda sporting goods shop, who on his store's Facebook page said Maloney was "a morning fixture." Just this week, he said, the two had joked about Maloney going to work at the store after retirement.

"I wish you actually worked with me ... you'd still be alive," MacKenzie wrote.

A vigil was planned for Friday night outside the Town Hall.

tina.susman@latimes.com

This article includes reporting from the Associated Press.

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