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Beloved NH police chief slain days from retirement died trying to make community safer
GREENLAND, N.H. (AP) ' Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney had one final drug bust planned before retiring from the small-town New Hampshire department after more than a quarter-century in law enforcement.
Trying to rid a neighborhood of its menace just days before retirement proved to be the 48-year-old chief's final act.
"He died trying to make our community safer," said John Penacho, chairman of the town's Board of Selectman.
Maloney was trying to serve a search warrant Thursday night when a suspect opened fire, killing the chief, injuring four officers from other departments, and plunging the southeastern New Hampshire community of Greenland into a grief that residents say they won't soon get over.
After a tense overnight standoff, the suspected gunman, Cullen Mutrie, and a female acquaintance were found dead in the home early Friday in an apparent murder-suicide or double suicide.
The chief's death rocked a seven-member force more accustomed to reports of burglar alarms and barking dogs than violent crime. Maloney was liked, respected and less than two weeks from retirement.
"In those final days, he sacrificed his life in public service," said Attorney General Michael Delaney.
Police Sgt. Dawn Sawyer, who was one of the seven members of the force and had worked with Maloney for 19 years, thanked the community for its support as about 200 people, some hugging and crying gathered for a Friday evening candlelight vigil outside Town Hall.
"He loved his job," Sawyer said. "Going out, doing the job, doing what he died doing ' that's what he loved."
A memorial service is planned for Saturday afternoon at Greenland Central School.
Maloney had 26 years of experience in law enforcement, the last 12 as chief of the Greenland department.
He was a comforting presence in the coastal town of about 3,500. Maloney seemed to be everywhere, working traffic details, keeping watch over band concerts at the park, always ready to listen to residents' concerns.
"Everybody knew him because he knew everybody," said Cynthia Smith, 73.
Maloney had an especially good rapport with teens and children. He once let a beginning driver off the hook with a warning instead of a ticket, recalled longtime resident Jane Gouzoules, 71. And when Stacie Gregg's two sons were young and refused to stay buckled in their car seats, she drove them to the police station, where Maloney intervened in his typically low-key way.
"He showed them around the cars and he showed them the lights and he sat them up on one of the motorcycles. Just so that they'd feel comfortable and respect him, but not intimidate them," Gregg recalled. "And they listened. He was that kind of guy. He was genuine."
Yet Maloney was also ready for something different. He said he planned to take a month off before launching a new career. As news of his pending retirement spread, townspeople stopped him to wish him luck.
"I have nine more working days left," Maloney told a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night, "and I have one more item I'm going to clear up."
The hulking, 6-foot-2, 260-pound Mutrie lived along a busy street near Interstate 95 and had long been a thorn in the neighborhood's side, working on loud motorcycles and playing music deep into the night.
Anabolic steroids were once found in his home after he was arrested on domestic assault charges and officers entered to confiscate guns, The Portsmouth Herald reported last year.
Next-door neighbor Lee Miller said she had complained to police repeatedly about suspected drug activity at the house ' and was told it was under investigation.
Maloney and the four other officers, all detectives from other departments, were part of a drug task force run by the state attorney general's office. They arrived at Mutrie's house at 6 p.m. Thursday, search warrant in hand. Mutrie was ready, authorities said, opening fire as police tried to gain entry.
Across the street, neighbor Michael Gordon's family was just cleaning up from dinner when he heard a loud popping sound. He thought one of his young sons was banging on the dining room window and went to tell him to stop.
"I looked out the window and saw the shootout had already begun," Gordon said. "My first thought was it was a bunch of fools playing paintball in the middle of the day."
Gordon said he realized the gravity of the situation when he saw a downed officer ' Maloney ' and realized that no one was rushing to assist him. Gordon herded his frightened boys and his wife to the back of the house and lay on the floor. Eventually they crawled to the basement, where they spent a long, tense night.
Tammy Hardy, 39, also hid in her basement with her two children.
"I haven't slept yet. And I don't know if I'll get any sleep today because my mind won't stop racing," she said Friday. "I don't think I'll ever get it out of my head."
Authorities spoke to Mutrie from outside the home a short time after the shooting, but things soon went silent, Delaney said. Around 2 a.m., a tactical team placed a robot equipped with a video camera in the home, and it detected the bodies of Mutrie and the woman, whose name has not been released.
Two of the wounded officers were treated for gunshot wounds and released. The two others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the chest. Both were wearing bulletproof vests, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was ongoing.
Municipal offices closed Friday in light of Maloney's death, and residents were invited to Greenland Central School "for a time of sharing and support." Signs outside a real estate company advised motorists to "Honk for Chief and Wounded Officers" and "Salute to Chief Mike Maloney."
"I'm a wreck. He was just the greatest guy," said fourth-grade teacher Jacqueline DeFreze. "He's kind-hearted, always visible in the community."
DeFreze had planned to attend a surprise retirement party for Maloney. On Friday, a Greenland firefighter walked into Nik & Charlie's Pizzeria ' which was to supply food for the party ' and canceled the order.
Rubinkam reported from Allentown, Pa. Associated Press writers Lynne Tuohy and Kathy McCormack in Concord and Holly Ramer in Greenland contributed to this report.