Cop shot dead in New Hampshire house that then explodes, burns

Last Updated May 13, 2014 9:30 AM EDT

BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- A New Hampshire police officer was shot to death after he responded to a domestic disturbance at a home that later exploded and burned, authorities said Monday.

State Attorney General Joseph Foster said late Monday night that 48-year-old Stephen Arkell, of Brentwood, was shot to death when he answered the call in a suburban neighborhood for people older than 55.

Foster said Michael Nolan, 47, the son of the homeowner, is the suspected gunman. He is presumed dead.

"Another police officer arrived and entered the home but was driven out by gunfire," Foster said.

After the shooting, the house burst into flames. A massive explosion blew the front off the house and within an hour, it had been leveled.

Foster said Michael Nolan, 47, the son of the homeowner, is the suspected gunman and is presumed dead.

Arkell was a 15-year veteran of the Brentwood police department and a father of two teenage girls, reports CBS Boston.

The fire scene is going to be processed by the state fire marshal and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the state police major crimes unit will be investigating the circumstances that led to the incident, Foster said, adding, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers family, friends and fellow officers.

Gov. Maggi Hansen said in a statement: "The entire State of New Hampshire is in mourning over the tragic loss of Brentwood Officer Steve Arkell. Officer Arkell bravely answered the call of duty and made the ultimate sacrifice, a heroic demonstration of his commitment to the safety of his fellow citizens. Like so many of our first responders do on a daily basis, Officer Arkell courageously put his life on the line to protect others, and in doing so, was tragically taken far too soon."

She ordered that flags be flown at half-staff in his honor.

Debra Vasapolli, director of public relations at Exeter Hospital, said one person was taken there but said that person was not the victim of a gunshot wound. She declined to provide more details.

Neighbor Wayne Hughes told the Portsmouth Herald that police responded to the house after neighbors heard an argument Monday afternoon and called 911. His wife, Susan, said she saw a police officer arrive at the home and then heard "rapid gun fire."

She said she saw Walter Nolan, 86, being taken from the scene by ambulance before she and others were evacuated from the area. Public records indicate the house is owned by Nolan and he apparently lived in the home with his son.

Neighbor Laura Miller told CBS Boston she heard the gunfire but "didn't really think too much of it because this is New Hampshire. People are always shooting."

Police used an armored vehicle to evacuate residents, she said.

After the blaze started around 4 p.m., firefighters were kept away from the scene.

Firefighters started attacking the blaze around 6 p.m., and the fire was largely knocked down about a half hour later. It didn't appear to have spread to neighboring houses. Late Monday night, AG Foster said some neighbors were being allowed to return to their homes.

One told CBS Boston, "We're just broken up" about what happened. "We love our community," she said.