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AG: Combination of factors led to shootout that left Greenland police chief dead

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 14. 2012 5:13PM

CONCORD - The committee investigating the fatal shooting of Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney has concluded a combination of factors led to the shootout in April and that a SWAT team should have handled the forced entry into the home of Cullen Mutrie given his violent past.

According to findings released Friday by New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney, there was nothing that could be classified as a primary cause, only a series of unfortunate circumstances and choices that together led to tragedy as a drug task force attempted to execute a search warrant the evening of April 12.

The committee's critiques of the operation included inadequate planning, questionable timing and a lack of clear and written policies for such drug task forces to follow.

"This review process was in no way a disciplinary process," Delaney said during a news conference at his office. "This was a process to review what happened, to take lessons learned and to move forward."

The five-member committee included a veteran law enforcement official and an attorney appointed last year as a representative to the state's judiciary on the state Police Standards and Training Council. Their six-month investigation concluded last week when they submitted a lengthy review and list of recommendations to Delaney.

Ultimately, the committee found that members of the task force should have called in a SWAT team once they determined they would need to force their way into the home given the potential danger posed by Mutrie, who had a history of drugs and violent behavior.

"They determined this was a warrant that should have been characterized as high-risk and that would have in best practices called upon for the assistance of a tactical team if they made the decision to do a forcible entry," Delaney said.

Although the "no knock" warrant authorized forcible entry, two Greenland officers knocked first, hoping to draw Mutrie out of the house and detain him as the the task force searched for drugs. There also was an arrest warrant for Brittany Tibbetts, Mutrie's girlfriend, charging her with selling controlled drugs.

When there was no answer after knocking several times, the team used a battering ram on the door, which state police said was sturdy and had two locks, including a heavy deadbolt. While attempting to break through the door, an officer shattered a window next to it in order to try and get a look inside the home, which had the shades pulled and lights out. It was too dark to see inside and officers announced themselves several times as "police." When the door finally gave way and the officers entered Mutrie was waiting, poised to open fire with a .357 magnum revolver.

Four officers quickly went down, two of them severely wounded.

Maloney was on the scene as backup and investigators said he helped lead the wounded officers to safety, he then returned to his cruiser for cover. He peered over the vehicle, leaving himself exposed for a moment, and Mutrie opened fire again from a basement window. One of the rounds stuck Maloney in the head killing him instantly.

Early the following morning, police sent in a robot that found the bodies of Mutrie and Tibbetts, who had $14,000 in cash in her clothes. An autopsy determined Mutrie killed Tibbetts, then himself, dying with the semi-automatic pistol in his lap. Police also found cocaine, marijuana and anabolic steroids in the home.

Mutrie was on a personal recognizance bail at the time of the shooting and facing felony drug charges in Rockingham Superior Court. Under the terms of his bail and a domestic violence restraining order, he was prohibited from possessing firearms.

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