Ceremony welcomes new Greenland chief
GREENLAND - When Tara Laurent was first sworn in as police chief on April 12, it was done in a darkened room with the blinds closed at the Greenland town offices - out of the media's view.
It was just after 10:30 p.m. Police Chief Michael Maloney, who was due to retire in eight days, was killed in a wild shootout a few hours earlier. Four members of the Attorney General's Drug Task Force were also wounded.
In the midst of the tragedy that was unfolding outside Cullen Mutrie's Post Road home, Rockingham County Attorney James Reams suggested that Laurent, who was supposed to replace Maloney upon retirement, be sworn in immediately. Reams wanted it done in secret because news of Maloney's death had not been officially announced.
Laurent, a detective sergeant from Newmarket, quietly took over a police department in mourning and a community in shock, but on Wednesday night she was sworn in once again during a public ceremony at the Greenland Central School before about 150 police officers and others from law enforcement, firefighters, and community members.
The entire police force was also awarded unit citations, but three officers were given Medals of Valor for their acts of bravery and selflessness on the night their chief was killed.
Greenland Officers Wayne Young, David LoConte, and Ted Hartmann joined six officers from the Attorney General's Drug Task Force when they showed up at Mutrie's residence to execute a search warrant and arrest his estranged girlfriend, Brittany Tibbetts, as part of a drug investigation.
'It's very clear that every officer that was there that night for the incident really performed above and beyond. My three officers were obviously there from the beginning and they put themselves in harm's way in order to make sure that other officers were safe and that really makes me proud to be the chief of officers like that. It makes me proud to be a part of law enforcement,' said Laurent.
She said Young and LoConte knocked on the door to make contact with Mutrie and/or Tibbetts. With no response, task force agents approached and Young and LoConte moved toward the back corners of the home.
Chief Maloney arrived and parked his cruiser at the edge of the road, Laurent said.
When the front door of the home was opened, the officers were met with a volley of gunfire. Some officers returned fire, while others fell after being shot.
After hearing the shots, Young and LoConte ran to the front of the house to help in the gunfight, Laurent said. Young quickly radioed Rockingham County dispatch to advise that shots were fired and officers were down.
'This began an immediate and widespread response from a myriad of law enforcement agencies in the Seacoast and beyond,' Laurent said.
Maloney saw that there were task force agents wounded, so he jumped into action and pulled Newmarket Detective Scott Kukesh to safety after he was shot in the chest.
Maloney then asked that Hartmann respond to evacuate Kukesh.
'Without regard for his own safety, Ted Hartmann drove through the line of fire from the suspect, waited for two injured officers to be loaded into the back of his cruiser, and drove them to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, knowing that their injuries were life threatening,' Laurent said.
Hartmann later returned to the scene.
Once LoConte found cover, he saw another task force officer, Rochester Detective Jeremiah Murphy, on the ground. When he and another task force officer realized that he was bleeding profusely from his chest and shoulder area, they administered medical care and then loaded him into the cruiser and rushed to the hospital.
LoConte and the other uninjured task force officer returned to the scene to help further.
Meanwhile, Young took cover behind a vehicle in the driveway near Maloney.
When other cruisers began arriving, Young intercepted them to keep them from entering the line of fire, Laurent said.
'Shortly thereafter, shots rang out once again from the residence, fatally injuring Chief Maloney,' Laurent said.
Attorney General Michael Delaney attended the ceremony and praised Laurent and the officers for the job they did that night and beyond.
'Chief Tara Laurent took over the helm as police chief of Greenland under the most difficult circumstances anybody could have taken over as chief and she has served during these past few weeks with grace and distinction,' Delaney said.