HAMPTON, N.H. — Today, Greenland, N.H., police Chief Michael Maloney was to retire after 26 years. Yesterday, thousands mourned his death.
A huge crowd packed the grounds of Winnacunnet High School yesterday afternoon to pay tribute to Maloney in an emotional ceremony preceded by a procession of thousands of fellow police officers from across New England and beyond.
Maloney, 48, was gunned down April 12 and four other police officers shot and wounded while serving warrants on Cullen Mutrie, 29, and Brittany Tibbetts, 26, during a drug raid at Mutrie's Greenland home.
It took an hour for thousands of police officers, firefighters, prosecutors and others to walk the 1.6 miles from the funeral home to the football field. The hearse bearing Maloney's body was last, flanked by members of the Greenland Police Department.
Thousands of people lined the perimeter of the Winnacunnet football field, watching in silence as nine officers lifted Maloney's flag-draped casket from the hearse. They carried it onto the field as many wiped tears from their eyes.
Those who came to honor Maloney during the hour and a half funeral service included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Gov. John Lynch, New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney and the state's congressional delegation.
Holder and Lynch told of how Maloney, the Greenland chief for 12 years, looked forward to retiring today to spend more time with his family after nearly three decades in law enforcement.
"This was supposed to be for him a time of celebration," Holder said.
Holder, Lynch and other speakers said it was fitting that the service was held on the same football field where Maloney, a 1982 Winnacunnet graduate, played more than 30 years ago.
"Instead of grieving, we should be celebrating at Michael's retirement party," the governor said.
Lynch said he pictured Maloney, an ardent New England Patriots fan, sitting in his favorite chair with his two cats to watch his team play.
Maloney, who also loved fishing and motorcycles, was particularly a fan of Patriots player Vince Wilfork. The nose tackle telephoned Maloney's family, as did Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Maloney's police cruiser and beloved Harley-Davidson motorcycle were parked on the field.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., brother Tim Maloney, retired Greenland police Chief Scott Blanchard and two Greenland officers also spoke. They told of how the chief would do anything for anyone, especially his police comrades.
"He could have chosen an easier path or a safer one," Holder said. "He wanted to make a difference, and he did."
Holder told of how Maloney rushed to help the injured officers before he was shot and killed.
"He wouldn't ask anything of his fellow officers he wouldn't ask of himself," Holder said. "He, indeed, is a role model."
Maloney's slaying comes at a time when New Hampshire has seen 12 homicides in 11 days and only three weeks after Manchester police Officer Daniel Doherty was shot fives times by a suspect. Doherty attended Maloney's funeral in a wheelchair.
"An attack on a police officer is an attack on all of us," Lynch said.
The speakers also paid tribute to the four N.H. Drug Task Force officers shot and injured: Newmarket Detective Scott Kukesh, Rochester Detective Jeremiah Murphy, Dover Detective Gregory Turner and University of New Hampshire Detective Eric Kulberg.
The ceremony concluded with the sounding of "Taps," a 21-gun salute and a flyover. But perhaps the most moving moments were the presentation of the flag from Maloney's casket to his widow, Peggy, and the toning out of his radio code in a final roll call.
Before the service, thousands of people lined Route 1 for a mile while a procession of police and dignitaries marched or rode motorcycles from the funeral home to the high school.
Some roads were closed for hours before the ceremony, as police prepared for an onslaught of people wishing to pay their last respects to the chief.
Many merchants closed for business, tied yellow ribbons onto posts and posted messages in store windows to honor Maloney.
Throngs of people stood on the sidewalk, some holding small American flags. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders held flags along the procession route. Many placed their hands over their hearts as bagpipes played and the officers passed beneath an arch created by two fire department ladder trucks bearing a large American flag.
A wake held Wednesday also drew thousands of people.
.• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.