Murdered troopers, judge and editor remembered during Colebrook memorial

Union Leader Correspondent
August 19. 2017 1:18AM
Runners make their way on the 55-mile route from Columbia to the State Police Troop F barracks in Twin Mountain. Troop F was where Troopers Les Lord and Scott Phillips were stationed when they were shot and killed Aug. 19, 1997, in Colebrook. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

COLEBROOK — In the LaPerle’s IGA parking lot where New Hampshire State Troopers Scott Phillips and Les Lord were murdered 20 years ago today, their family, friends and colleagues remembered and honored them Friday for making “the ultimate sacrifice.”

Carl Drega, a resident of Bow who had a seasonal home on the Connecticut River in nearby Columbia, had a long-running feud with authorities in the North Country. The feud exploded on the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1997, when Philips attempted to pull him over on a traffic stop.

Drega rolled into the LaPerle’s lot and, armed with an AR-15 rifle, stepped out of his pickup truck and shot and wounded Philips, who managed to return fire, but was executed by Drega.

Lord, too, arrived at the grocery store, but even before he could get out of his cruiser, Drega shot him dead and then stole Phillips’ vehicle and drove the short distance south on Route 3 to the Colebrook News and Sentinel newspaper.

At the newspaper building, Drega shot and killed Vickie Bunnell, a Colebrook District Court judge and Columbia selectman with whom he had tangled before, and News and Sentinel Editor Dennis Joos, who tried to disarm him.

In Phillips’ cruiser, Drega then drove into Vermont, where, before being killed, he shot and wounded New Hampshire Fish & Game Conservation Off. Wayne Saunders; New Hampshire state troopers Jeffrey Caulder and Robert Haase; and U.S. Border Patrol agent John Pfeifer.

Every Aug. 19 since 1998, New Hampshire State Police Troop F in Twin Mountain, where Phillips and Lord were stationed, has held a brief, somber ceremony to remember them, but this year, on the 20th anniversary of their murders, another observance was added in Colebrook.

That observance began at 4 p.m. Friday at LaPerle’s with a prayer and the laying of a wreath and continued immediately thereafter with a 55-mile “relay to remember” from LaPerle’s to the Troop F Barracks.

Sgt. Victor Muzzey, who is the Troop F assistant commander and an organizer of Friday’s memorial service and relay run, said remembering “two brothers” was “not only our duty but our privilege and our honor.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who was seven months into her first term as governor when the troopers, Bunnell and Joos were killed, said she was proud to join “in remembering four of the North Country’s fallen heroes.”

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