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Fremont officer, chief honored for actions on day of Brentwood police shooting

Union Leader Correspondent

November 30. 2014 9:59PM
Fremont police Officer Derek Franek, left, and Fremont Police Chief Jon Twiss, were recognized Sunday for their actions on the day Brentwood police Officer Stephen Arkell was killed. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
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FREMONT — Fremont police officer Derek Franek and Fremont Police Chief Jon Twiss were honored Sunday for their efforts to save lives on the day Brentwood police officer Stephen Arkell was fatally ambushed during a call.

Franek and Twiss were among several officers recognized during an emotional ceremony at Ellis School.

Franek was the back-up officer who responded to the home in Brentwood to assist Arkell last May 12 when he was called to investigate an argument between gunman Michael Nolan and his father, Walter.

For Franek, the wounds have begun to heal, but he said the tragedy has changed him as a police officer.

“I’m coping well with it and I’m trying to live a normal life. It’s hard at times, but I have the fortitude to not let this beat me,” the 40-year-old Franek said after being awarded a “Medal of Honor.”

Arkell, 48, was shot and killed as soon as he stepped through the front door of the Nolan residence.

Aware that shots had been fired and Arkell was unaccounted for, Franek made the decision to enter the house through that same door.

He saw the walls and floor riddled with bullet holes and found Arkell dead inside.

Almost as soon as he entered, Franek came under fire, but he wasn’t able to see Nolan, who was firing from an elevated position.

Franek, who served in the Marines in the 1990s, quickly realized he would need to find an escape.

Amid the gunfire, Franek made his way to a porch at the back, jumped to the ground and took cover at the side of the house. At that point, Franek was able to notify dispatchers that several rounds were fired at him and that Arkell was down.

As more officers began arriving, Franek relayed his observations of Arkell.

Twiss — who earned a “Medal of Valor” — soon arrived and approached from the rear of the residence to assist in establishing a perimeter. Within seconds, Twiss came under fire from what was believed to be an AK-47 rifle.

Fremont police Lt. Ellen Arcieri said authorities believe Nolan fired more than 100 rounds while inside the residence.

Twiss attempted to contact Franek on his police radio. He eventually reached him on his cellphone and learned that he was unharmed. When Twiss asked the status of Arkell, Franek informed him that he was dead.

“Because of these details, Chief Twiss was instrumental in convincing other on-scene commanding officers to not make any attempt to rescue Officer Arkell under the present circumstances. To do so would have jeopardized additional lives,” Arcieri said.

Nolan soon began setting fires inside the house while continuing to fire rounds at officers. Nolan’s body was found several hours after the house exploded.

“Although Officer Arkell’s death is tragic and he will forever be remembered for his service to the community and his ultimate sacrifice, and mourned by those who knew him, we could not be more proud of Officer Franek for the actions he took on that fateful day,” Fremont police Sgt. Jason Larochelle told the nearly 150 people, including police from Fremont and other departments, who attended the ceremony.

Had Franek not made the split-second decision to enter the home to aid Arkell with the gunman still inside, Larochelle said other officers wouldn’t have been given the information they needed, They, too, could have been ambushed.

“His actions that day undoubtedly saved lives and prevented this tragedy from compounding into further loss of life,” Larochelle said.

Franek said he finds it “therapeutic” to reflect on what happened that day.

“I’m facing it. I’m confronting it,” he said.

Twiss said Sunday’s ceremony also brought him back to that day.

“It’s hard to forget. It’s etched in your memory,” he said.

And like Franek, Twiss doesn’t think of himself as a hero for his actions.

“I was just doing my job like everyone else. We were all there doing what we had to do,” said Twiss, who commended the many officers from other departments that responded.

Fremont Officers Peter Morelli and Jesse Emery also received life-saving awards for calls unrelated to the Brentwood shooting. Morelli was recognized for using an automatic external defibrillator to help save a man who was unconscious from a possible heroin overdose on Aug. 17. Emery received the award for rescuing an elderly man who fell into a swamp and was stuck for 45 minutes on Nov. 28, 2013.

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