MANCHESTER — Two men and a woman are dead in connection with a 15-hour standoff that prompted police to close one of the city’s main commercial arteries, South Willow Street, overnight Wednesday and into the morning on Thursday.
Stephen Marshall, 51 — a man who has faced nearly two dozen criminal charges across southern New Hampshire over the past 10 years — was shot by Manchester police and the DEA about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Authorities are withholding the names and causes of death of the two others, pending notification of family and autopsies.
During a Thursday afternoon news conference, authorities said police had entered the Quality Inn hotel on John Devine Drive Wednesday evening.
They had a warrant and were seeking Marshall and the man who later died. About the time police were preparing to knock on his door, Marshall left through a broken exterior window on the ground floor, said New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald.
Marshall brandished a silver handgun and “engaged” two U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and a Manchester police officer, MacDonald said.
A DEA agent and Manchester police officer fired their weapons; Marshall was taken to Elliot Hospital and pronounced dead.
Authorities said there was sporadic gunfire during the next nine hours.
About 10:15 a.m., the Nashua police SWAT team entered a barricaded hotel room and found the two holdouts dead.
Nashua had been called in to relieve exhausted Manchester officers around 7 a.m. No police officers were injured during the incident, and the Manchester officer involved was placed on paid leave.
“Manchester police officers were, for lack of a better term, attacked last night,” Police Chief Carlo Capano said during an early morning news conference at police headquarters.
“It’s something we can’t tolerate; it’s something we won’t tolerate,” he said.
The shooting prompted police to clear the hotel of guests. John Devine Drive and a portion of South Willow Street — including a portion of the Exit 1 interchange — were closed for hours, as well as the retail and service businesses located on those roads.
Police tried several times to communicate and negotiate with the man and woman inside the hotel room. At some point, contact was made, according to tweets and emails released by police.
“They (SWAT officers) were dealing with multiple gunshots pretty much every hour during that nine-hour stretch,” said Benjamin Agati, the senior assistant attorney general overseeing the investigation.
During an afternoon news conference, he and other officials were cautious about what information they released.
For example, Agati would not say directly whether Marshall shot at police, and he would not say if the SWAT team returned fire when the two holdouts started shooting from the hotel.
He acknowledged there were exchanges of gunfire, and each will be investigated.
“Trying to figure which shot is when is something we’re working on right now,” he said.
Officials would also not discuss the underlying investigation that drew police to the hotel, but noted that the DEA, which investigates drug trafficking, was involved.
About the time that police declared the standoff resolved, an ambulance pulled up, a single stretcher was taken into the building through a side entrance and then returned to the ambulance with a shrouded patient.
As the Union Leader first reported, federal agents responding to the hotel had asked suspects inside the hotel to come out and surrender.
The window that Marshall tried to escape from was broken from the inside, Agati said. While he would not confirm it, earlier reports said he began to shoot at police.
According to police at 6 a.m. Thursday, city SWAT team members had deployed chemical munitions, but those barricaded inside refused to come out. Reporters saw other equipment brought in and out of the hotel on Thursday morning: a police dog, a shin-high robot, a long, hooked pole.Shots were fired about 8:15 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, the second set during evacuation of the hotel, according to the tweets transmitted by Capt. Brian O’Keefe.
At 10:47 p.m., police said “multiple rounds” were fired at SWAT positions. Other reports of shots came at 12:50 a.m., 2:21 a.m., 2:49 a.m. and 3:19 a.m., which was the last reported shots at police.
The tweets did not say whether the SWAT team returned fire.
Police started evacuating the hotel around 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I can’t leave,” said a man on Thursday morning. He had slept in his car, which was parked in the front parking lot. SWAT officers came and went in the morning. He spoke to the Union Leader on Thursday morning, during a lull in the activity.
He said he was from Franklin, Mass., and evacuated the hotel Wednesday night, but had nowhere to go. He could not leave because his clothes and tools were in the hotel room.
He likely won’t be getting in soon. Authorities put crime tape at the front entrance of the hotel, and police said they will be processing the hotel and immediate area for days.
“It was literally every five minutes,” he said of the shooting at one point. “I was more shocked than scared,” he said. He would not give his name.
During the afternoon news briefing, Capano said police officers undergo training, but being shot at is an extremely stressful situation.
He said it was disheartening for officers to undergo such peril, but he praised fellow law enforcement agencies, the media and the community for their support and patience.
“We are truly blessed,” he said, “that none of those officers were hurt today.”