BRENTWOOD — Police acknowledge that Michael Nolan’s motive for fatally shooting police officer Stephen Arkell and then setting a fire he did not survive remains a mystery.
“We are never going to know what he was thinking,” State Police Sgt. Joseph Ebert said Monday at a news conference at the Brentwood Fire Station.
Arkell, summoned to the 46 Mill Pond Crossing Road May 12 by neighbors who overheard a fierce argument, was invited into the home by 86-year-old Walter Nolan and immediately fired upon by Michael Nolan from an interior second-floor window, according to investigators.
The younger Nolan then set several fires on the first and second floor of the Brentwood home he shared with his father. As the fire burned, bullets riddled gas pipes in the basement, eventually creating a buildup of fumes that triggered a massive explosion, according to Christopher Porreca, head of the National Response Team for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Autopsy results for 47-year-old Michael Nolan may take weeks to conclude, Attorney General Joe Foster said.
Porreca said that a team of 19 investigators drawn from around the country gleaned evidence that concluded the fire was intentionally set.
“The sprinkler system (in the home) was overwhelmed,” Porreca said.
The fire grew so hot that “a significant amount of ammunition” either fired off or melted, investigators said.
Arkell, a part-time officer, was dispatched to the duplex — part of a 55-plus community — around 4 p.m. last Monday after a neighbor called 911 concerned about an argument between Michael Nolan and his father.
When Fremont police officer Derek Franek arrived at the home four minutes after Arkell, he knew from a second 911 call that shots had been fired inside the house.
Franek spoke with Walter Nolan at the front of the home and then handcuffed him for safety purposes.
“He was not getting the kind of responses he was hoping from him,” said Ebert, the lead investigator.
Franek walked around to the rear of the home to enter it, but only found an elevated rear deck about 15 feet from the ground, according to Ebert.
Franek then decided to enter from the front door. Once inside, “he began to take fire from above,” Ebert said.
Franek told investigators he could see that Arkell was already dead, and then exited through the rear of the home, leaping off the back deck.
“What I will tell you is that there was little, if anything, that officer Franek could have done that wouldn’t have cost him his life,” Ebert said.
He said Franek’s actions likely saved the lives of others who may have tried to enter the home.
Police recovered seven firearms from the home, including Arkell’s service weapon. Michael Nolan’s three handguns and three long rifles were found near Nolan, according to Ebert.
“We have no indication they were illegally owned,” he said.
Ebert said that Walter Nolan suffered minor injuries from being taken into custody. He remains mentally unable to provide investigators with answers to their questions.
“It’s not that he’s not cooperating,” Ebert said. “It’s unbelievably frustrating we are not able to get the answers we were hoping to get.”
Arkell, 48, was wearing a vest, he said.
“He did everything right and it’s because of that he paid for it with his life,” Ebert said.
Investigators acknowledged more than once that evidence collection was hindered by the fire.
“The fire destroyed a great deal of evidence we would have liked to recover,” Ebert said.