April 12. 2013 1:04AM

Greenland's pain remains fresh a year after chief's murder

Union Leader Correspondent

Former Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney was killed a year ago today. 

Bill Adams of the Suds 'n Soda convenience store in Greenland, displays a black and blue ribbon in memory of the late Chief Michael Maloney, who stopped by the store every morning to grab his coffee and chat. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

GREENLAND -- Tammy Hardy still has nightmares.

It's been a year since she watched in horror as police officers were shot in a hail of gunfire across the street from her Post Road home, but the scene is fresh in her mind.

Hardy can't get the images out of her head, and it doesn't help that her place faces the house where Cullen Mutrie shot and killed Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney and wounded four other officers in a botched drug raid.

"I don't sleep straight through the night anymore. I remember the sound of the gunfire and the cops running around and then all being shot and dropping to the ground," said Hardy, a 40-year-old mother whose two daughters were also home with her when the shots rang out on the night of April 12, 2012.

In the year that has followed the state's worst police shooting in terms of number of officers shot, the town of Greenland, its police department and the law enforcement community on the Seacoast and beyond have come together in ways they haven't before.

Ceremonies and charity events have been held to honor the chief and help the wounded.

Today, thousands will wear black ribbons with a thin blue ribbon in the middle, and this afternoon at 5, a moment of silence will be observed outside the Greenland Police Department to mark the one-year anniversary.

Many agree that Greenland is the essence of small town America, but say the shooting proved that no community is immune to violence on a large scale.

"I think Greenland got a huge wake-up call," said Greenland police Sgt. Dawn Sawyer, who began her career with Maloney in North Hampton in 1993 before being hired in Greenland in 1995.

Maloney, 48, and the four other officers with the Attorney General's Drug Task Force were shot during a drug raid at Mutrie's home at 517 Post Road. Mutrie opened fire on the officers when they showed up and later shot and killed his estranged girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts, before turning the gun on himself.

The wounded officers were Newmarket Detective Scott Kukesh; Rochester Detective Jeremiah Murphy; Dover Detective Gregory Turner; and University of New Hampshire police Detective Eric Kulberg.

The deadly shooting prompted the Attorney General's Office to form an independent review committee, which praised officers for their heroism that day, but also found deficiencies in the way the raid was carried out.

The office concluded that a series of unfortunate circumstances led to the shoot-out.

Greenland's new chief, Tara Laurent, who took over the job just hours after Maloney died, said the department has moved forward over the past year, but in small steps.

"I think we all feel very close to one another because we supported each other through probably the most difficult time that we'll ever seen job-wise. I think that gives us a special camaraderie that hopefully will see us through any other big things that come our way," she said.

For Laurent, the toughest part over the past year has been evaluating the officers within the department as they work through their emotions.

"Since everyone's on a rollercoaster, some people have great days and then the next minute they'll have a bad day. Knowing how to support them the best way and knowing that they're OK, I struggle with that every day," she said.

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Geri Hart has tried to help. She's been cooking lunch for the Greenland officers every other Thursday since the shooting.

Hart lives in North Hampton. Her husband, Robert, owns Hart's Plumbing and Heating in Greenland.

"We felt it was our way of giving back to them for what they give to us," she said Thursday as she cooked lasagna and prepared to deliver it for lunch.

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Like others, Sawyer has spent the year attending ceremonies and helping with other events honoring Maloney and the wounded officers. Next month, she'll join other Greenland officers on a trip to Washington, D.C., where Maloney's name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

"It's always at the forefront of my mind," Sawyer said. "It does make it hard because you do relive it all the time."

Sawyer still has the image from Maloney's wake etched in her mind.

"That line that went on forever made you realize how many people he touched. I have people come up to me all the time, maybe they met him once or twice, but in that meeting he made an impression," she said.

Since the tragedy, Sawyer said she's been making more time for herself and her 11-year-old daughter, Isabella.

She's learned that life is too short.

"For me, I've been trying to make sure I'm living my life and not waiting for my career to be over to start," Sawyer said.

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Greenland police Officer Tom Simmons worked with Maloney for 28 years - first in North Hampton and then in Greenland.

The two were so close, in fact, that Simmons named his oldest son after Maloney.

"It's been a hard year," said Simmons, now a part-time officer.

Simmons was at home when he got a call from Sawyer telling him that five officers had been shot and that he needed to come to Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

"I didn't know who was down," he said. "When I arrived at the hospital, she told me the chief was hit and in the road. Every time you go by that house, it flashes back. It's hard to believe that a year has gone by so quickly."

The tragedy made the community tighter, he said, and made officers realize their vulnerability more than ever before.

"Anything can happen at any time when you're out there. There's no such thing as an ordinary stop. There's no such thing as an ordinary call," Simmons said.

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Jason MacKenzie, whose family owns the Suds 'N Soda convenience store where Maloney grabbed his coffee and chatted every morning, was working on the night of the shooting and remembers seeing one cruiser fly by, followed by another.

"The next thing it seemed like 50 to 60 cars," he recalled.

Then the store's phone began ringing.

"Our phone rang off the hook that night. Everybody was calling to find out what had happened," MacKenzie said. "It was definitely a sad night."

MacKenzie's daughter, Ciretta, who was 7 at the time, thought the world of Maloney. Whenever he showed up at the store while she was waiting for the school bus, Ciretta playfully loaded up her pockets as if she was shoplifting to try to get Maloney's attention.

As soon as he noticed, Maloney would stick his handcuffs just above her elbows because they would slide off her wrists, and then he'd haul her outside and turn her upside down to empty out the "stolen" goods.

"He was definitely a great guy," MacKenzie said.

Like others, Hardy, Mutrie's neighbor, was changed forever on that April night.

"It makes me look at life a lot differently, I'll tell you that," she said. I'm more aware of my surroundings. I'm more aware of everything."