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Thousands pay respects to NH police chief

Jim Cole | AP
Jim Cole | AP
An officer walks by the motorcycle of Greenland Police chief Michael Maloney, Wednesday April 18, 2012 in Hampton, N.H. during a wake service for the chief, who died when he and other officers were trying to serve a warrant at a Greenland home. Four other officers were injured.
By LYNNE TUOHY, The Associated Press

HAMPTON, N.H. — The Greenland police chief killed in a firefight a week ago was remembered Thursday as a hero who put fellow officers’ lives first. The comments came during a solemn service at a packed high school stadium where Michael Maloney played football as a teenager about 30 years ago.

“Here at Michael Maloney’s beloved alma mater … we bid farewell to a proud native son, a dedicated public servant, a loving husband, father and grandfather, and also a hero in every sense of the word,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a hushed audience at the Winnacunnet High School athletic field that included thousands of police officers.

Holder also acknowledged the presence of four members of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s drug task force who were injured during the deadly raid at the home of 29-year-old Cullen Mutrie of Greenland. After firing on the officers, Mutrie turned the gun on a female companion — Brittany Tibbetts — and then on himself. Both were dead at the scene.

Court documents unsealed since the shootings show police believed the pair were selling high volumes of oxycodone pills out of the house on a regular basis.

The injured officers are Detective Gregory Turner, 32, a six-year veteran of the Dover Police Department, Detective Eric Kulberg, 31, a seven-year veteran of the University of New Hampshire department, Detective Scott Kukesh, 33, a 10-year veteran of the Newmarket department and Detective Jeremiah Murphy, 34, a seven-year veteran of the Rochester department.

Maloney, 48, was shot once in the head as he scrambled to pull his injured colleagues out of the line of fire. He was eight days away from retirement and considered the raid to be the last bit of police work he had to clear up. A retirement party had been scheduled at the Portsmouth Country Club next week.

“Even when his comrades were wounded, Chief Maloney did not fall back,” Holder said. “He stood his ground and stayed with his team — working to help the others to safety.”

Diane Darling, a friend of Maloney and his wife, Peg, looked over the crowd in disbelief.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Darling said. “I just never imagined something like this would happen.”

More than 200 officers on motorcycles from throughout New England roared around the stadium. It took more than an hour for the procession of several thousand officers on foot to file in in formation. Among them was Manchester Police Officer Daniel Doherty in a wheelchair, leading his department’s contingent of more than 60 officers. Doherty was shot several times after a foot chase in a separate incident in Manchester last month.

Maloney’s casket was carried halfway around the track, his family walking stoically behind. The casket was placed front and center of the sea of police uniforms, resting between his beloved motorcycle and police cruiser. A flag at half-mast rippled in the wind. Otherwise, the silence in the stadium was profound.

He was remembered as an avid motorcyclist, fisherman and Patriots fan. Off-duty, he wore shorts and sandals whether it was summer or winter, friends said. But mostly, he was remembered as an officer dedicated to his colleagues and his community.

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney called Maloney a friend, a trusted colleague and a role model.

“Through his bravery and swift action, he has humbled us, inspired us, and shown us what it means to fulfill a law enforcement oath to serve and protect,” he said. “He was not about to abandon his brother officers. He would not have it any other way.”

Gov. John Lynch said in his 26 years in law enforcement Maloney “became widely known and widely loved.”

“He embraced Greenland like a father embraces his child,” Lynch said. “It was more than a job. It was a way of life.”

Most the speakers brought up Maloney’s love for his family and community. Photos shown of Maloney in the past week included one of him holding his newborn grandson and namesake, Michael Jacob — or M.J.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said as a mother, that photo caught her attention more than anything else. She said people will tell M.J. when he grows up that his grandfather was a great human being who loved his family and a loyal friend who cared about his community and had compassion for the people he served.

Fellow law enforcement officers and a retired judge remembered Maloney as a commander who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, but also had the confidence to remain in the background and allow others he worked with to do their jobs. They also talked about his love for the New England Patriots and fishing.

Retired Judge Francis Fraiser of Hampton District Court said it was fitting Maloney’s memorial service be held on a field where he had learned how to face competitors in contests played by fair rules.

But on Maloney’s last field of action, Fraiser said, “fair rules were not honored.”

Tim Maloney, Maloney’s younger brother, said one of his favorite things to do was spend time with his brother in his police cruiser. He recalled how his big brother prepared a pre-ride checklist, telling him he couldn’t touch the lights, turn on the siren, have a badge or give advice.

“I think he would be deeply touched by the show of support and love from all you,” Tim Maloney said.

The ceremony ended with the playing of taps, a 21-gun salute and flyover by police aircraft and on the mournful notes of the New Hampshire Pipe and Drum band.

And finally there was a chilling depiction of the last call to Maloney’s radio made by a Rockingham County sheriff’s dispatcher. The dispatcher feverishly attempted to reach the chief, repeatedly calling out his radio call number, “260,” after gunfire erupted. There was no response. The call ends with the dispatcher saying the code “10-2” — out of service.

Maloney’s casket was carried out of the stadium in a silent processional, his wife and brother carrying the folded flags that had draped it.

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