Another End Of Watch

Michael Briggs was a friend of mine. I worked with him on the Manchester NH Police Department. Normally, I don’t write and post things publicly if there is even a small chance that seeing what I have written would cause someone some pain. However, since 13 years have passed, coupled with the fact that, at least initially, there was so much publicity about Mike’s murder, I feel that I can write about it without causing pain to either his family or anyone else that was touched by losing Mike. Also, by sharing my memories of the murder of Mike and the week that followed his death, I can share, at least a small piece, my piece, of what went on behind the scenes after Mike’s murder. I normally don’t use real or full names in my stories, but here I will make an exception. However, I will never publicly refer to the name of Mike’s killer. I will not give him that notoriety. Suffice it to say, he murdered Mike in cold blood, while Mike was performing his duty as a police officer. 

During the months leading up to Mike’s murder, I often worked the police detail at Milly’s tavern on Wednesday nights, 10PM-2AM. Wednesday night was hip-hop night at Milly’s back then. Mike and his partners were assigned to Bicycle Patrol working 6PM-230AM. When he was working, he always made time to stop by Milly’s to check on the detail officer there, which more often than not was me. He would hang around for a bit, and we’d chat about whatever. Mike and his partner would often show up at bar break to help me deal with the unruly crowds that never wanted to leave. We made some arrests and fought a few battles together on those nights. 

My last summer in the Patrol Division, I worked midnights downtown, by choice, so I had a lot of interaction with Mike those nights. We backed each other up and went to many calls together. One ironic part of this story is that a few years before Mike’s murder, Mike responded to a drive by shooting, gang related, if I remember correctly. Mike found the injured party bleeding on the ground after being shot, and he immediately performed first aid on the victim after summoning an ambulance. The Paramedics who responded, and the ER staff at the hospital all agreed that the treatment Mike gave to that person upon arrival saved that persons life. That individual, whose life was saved by Mike, was the same person who shot and killed Mike a few years later. 

In 2006, my Brother and I came home on leave from Iraq. My wife had a surprise party for us. Mike came to my house that night to welcome us home along with so many other members of MPD. Who would have thought we’d lose Mike before the year was out? 

Mike and his partner were working on bicycle patrol that terrible Sunday night in October of 2006. They were working 6PM until 230AM.  Two men were involved in a domestic dispute and on the way out of the apartment, one of the men fired a pistol inside the apartment. This was a short time after 2AM, and the call for the domestic with shots fired came over the air shortly thereafter. During that time, Mike and his partner had bicycled to the station. There they would compete their daily report, check in and go home. Mike and John were, in every sense of the word, done with their shift.

The call came over the air, as well as a description of the two males involved, and several sector cars were responding. But Mike, hearing the call and also aware that the call wasn’t too far away, decided, instead of going out of service and into the station, to also respond. They immediately started searching for the two suspects, and it was known that at least one of them was armed. 

Mike and John rolled up behind two male subjects matching the description walking in the area down a dark alley. They dumped their bikes behind the two suspects. Mike and John ran up behind the two, identified themselves as police officers and ordered them to stop. The subject that John approached, from behind, stopped as ordered. John grabbed him, however the other subject continued to walk away at a fast pace, ignoring Mike’s orders to stop. When Mike caught up with him, also from behind, this subject suddenly turned and fired at Mike, striking Mike in the head. Mike did not die immediately, but succumbed to his injury some time later, and I believe that he never did regain consciousness. Meanwhile two other officers returned fire and chased the shooter, but the shooter got away.   

I got the word about Mike early Monday morning. I was scheduled for dayshift anyway. I quickly dressed, kissed my Wife good-bye and told her I won’t be home until we find Mike’s killer. 

The morning Mike was shot, I found myself part of one of many 3 man search teams rolling throughout the city looking for Mike’s murderer. I was with my brother Frank and Brian Riel. The three of us were veteran detectives by that point in our careers. Frank was working in our Special Investigation Unit, which investigated Narcotics, Vice and other Organized Crime types of activity. Brian was a Detective assigned to Juvenile, and investigated the physical and sexual abuse of children. I was assigned to Financial crimes at the time, but had previously served six years as a detective in the Domestic Violence Unit, specializing in the investigation of Sexual Assaults of adult victims as well as stalking cases and had some solid homicide training and experience as well. 

We aggressively followed every lead that was assigned or we developed.  Helicopters buzzing overhead, SWAT trucks with armor clad, rifle toting cops hanging on to the outside of trucks as they rushed around like firemen of old. My brother looked at me and we felt like we were back in Baghdad, not Manchester. Unbeknownst to us, Mike’s murderer had already fled not only the city, but the state. He would be arrested later that afternoon by the Boston Police inside of his Grandmother’s Dorchester apartment. 

Late the night before Mike died, my brother and I showed up at the Elliot Hospital. There were many other cops there. Most, were inconsolable. I talked to Mike. He was not conscious, and not expected to survive. I remember trying to hold his hand while I talked. I touched his face. I whispered I loved him. I told him how sorry I was. I told him we were going to take care of him. 

That night, Frank and I, together took a shift standing watch over Mike and his family outside of his room. Another of many bittersweet moments Frank and I shared throughout our lives and careers.  

I brought a bottle of Jameson Irish whisky to the hospital along with paper cups and ginger ale. The hospital made a large room available for cops to gather in. I pulled out the Jameson and poured the shots. A tearful toast to Mike followed and I suspect he would have loved it. 

The next morning, in Dorchester District Court, many of us attended the arraignment of Mike’s murderer. A woman in the lobby of the courthouse, seeing all the Manchester and Boston cops gathered together, remarked with obvious disdain “Boy you cops all stick together!” I turned to her and said with a bit of disdain myself, “You better believe it”. Mike’s murderer refused to leave the holding cell and face us in court. The coward who just 32 hours before had knowingly shot Mike in the head as Mike tried to apprehend him, was arraigned while he drew back inside the darkness of his cell. 

Upon arriving back at MPD, Nick Willard, who was in charge of what was now the murder investigation of an on duty Police Officer, assigned to me my piece of this investigation. He said he had no one to spare to work with me, so I was on my own. 

Jake Tyler, was a young cop and fairly new on the job. He had worked all night in patrol. That morning he offered to help me. No pay needed and not on the books. I drove him home, told him to put on a jacket and tie, and away we went to Methuen, Roxbury and Dorchester. Jake didn’t sleep for almost two days.

During my investigation, I learned that after shooting Mike, and while the biggest manhunt in the history of Manchester was taking place, the killer left NH with a couple of female friends. While we were kicking in doors, he calmly drove to Metheun Ma, where he ate lunch at McDonalds, then hit a few stores looking for cell phone accessories. He then drove to Boston. After picking up his Grandmother, this killer drove her to the bank, then to Western Union where he paid a few bills, just like any other day. A short time later he was located and after a brief standoff, arrested at his Grandmother’s apartment. When the cop killer was apprehended, the Arresting Officer called Detective Willard in NH, told him the sound he was about to hear was his handcuffs being applied Mike’s killer, then put his phone down to the Killer’s hands so Nick could hear the cuffs being applied. During that week, I was able to obtain clear video and photographic evidence that Mike’s murderer visited all those places I mentioned. Apparently, the fact that he had just shot a cop didn’t bother him too much. 

The first night I was in Boston, I took Jake to the No Name for a quick dinner. When we arrived, there was a Mass State Trooper near the door. I chatted him up a bit, let him know what we were doing in Boston. We ate. Instead of the check, the owner personally came to us, told us the trooper went to him, told him about us. The owner refused to take money from us, and told us how sorry he was about Michael Briggs murder. 

Our last stop late that night was to Boston Police Station Eleven, Dorchester. There, a BPD detective turned over a pair of sneakers worn by the murderer when he shot Mike. BPD seized those sneakers from the murderer. 

I remember a meeting that week that took place between the lead prosecutor (and later United States Senator Kelly Ayotte) and the detectives assigned to work this case. She told us that none of us could retire until after the case was completed. She expected the case to take up to two years to wind its way through the court system, and appeals for years. 

She also told us that our job was to neither grieve for Mike or comfort his family. She said our ONLY job was to work this case until completion. She said other cops in the department will take care of Mike and his family. We’d have plenty of time to grieve later. She was right about that. 

MPD placed a cop at the funeral home with Mike around the clock. I stopped in to hang out for a bit with whoever that cop was at the end of each night, usually around midnight or so. Then I headed home for three hours of tossing and turning. Up before five, quick shower and shave, bleary eyed, in dire need of sleep and a decent meal, but laser focused, I went back at it. Like all the other detectives that worked the case, I quickly became physically exhausted. I would grabbed whatever unmarked car that was available, and head back to Roxbury and Dorchester until I finished, usually late in the night. My biggest fear was falling asleep at the wheel coming back from Boston those late nights. 

Five days and nights for all of us, very little sleep, the case continued. I spent most of that time working with Boston Police Detectives tracking and getting video and witness statements following the murderers timeline beginning when he shot Mike until the BPD arrested him in Dorchester. 

Meanwhile, other MPD detectives arrived at Boston PD HQ in order to conduct various search warrants. Upon arrival, the Commander of Boston PD Homicide Unit, told the Manchester Detective Sergeant that he was placing his entire unit under the command of the MPD sergeant as long as needed. Ernie Goodno declined, but so, starting with Boston’s arrest of Mike’s killer, a special bond developed between the Boston and Manchester Police Departments that still exists today. 

I also remember, and my family was there, standing outside in the pouring rain during Mike’s wake. 

The day of the funeral arrived. I was proud that both my sons marched, in uniform, with five thousand other cops from all over the country. They got to experience their first police funeral. Tragically, it was for a Manchester Cop. Wouldn’t be the last police funeral for either of them. I never imagined we would have such a funeral in Manchester, never mind taking part in the investigation of the murder of one of our own. Unfortunately, Mike was not the last Manchester cop to be shot in the line of duty. There have been several since, and thankfully, despite serious wounds, all have survived. 

The day of the funeral came, after a long, long week. I finally broke down and I cried. There is a photo of me, standing next to Scott Fuller, and I’m covering my face. It may not be obvious, I was covering my face with a gloved hand, but I was crying. I finally broke down and cried for Mike. That photo shows up from time to time. 

The Hooksett NH Police came into the city that day (as MPD had always done at other police funerals in New England) and took over many police duties so we could bury Mike and grieve. I’m sure there were other agencies present as well. But, I saw Hooksett cruisers around downtown Manchester that day. 

My wife and daughter needed a ride from the stadium were the service for Mike was held, to their car, which was parked in another part of the city. I grabbed a bunch of cops, who just happened to be Weymouth Mass. cops. They eagerly agreed to take care of Mary and Katrina. No questions asked. Later, I got a lift from a bunch of Chelsea Mass. cops back downtown. Sadly, I was able to repay the Weymouth cops hospitality to my family that day. Last year, I attended the funeral of one of their own. 

I went home at about 8 PM the night of the funeral. I was pretty drunk, and it rained again, so my uniform was soaked. I sat down next to my bed, let the events of that week sink in. My last thought, which I said out loud, before I fell into an exhaustive deep sleep was “what a fuckin nightmare”. I never did look at police work the same after that. 

As a post script, I, like many of the other detectives who worked Mike’s case, refused to put in for and accept any overtime pay. However, we were ordered to do so. We protested, but the order stood. So, what all of us did who spent so many hours working this case, once we got paid, we took every dollar we received, put it in an envelope and gave it to Mike’s wife. I know it didn’t help very much, but it was important to us.  

It goes without saying, that there is much more to this story than what I have written, what I recollect.  And, suffice it to say, that there was and is more to Michael Brigg’s life than the circumstances that surround his death. Mike was also a Former Marine who served in Somalia. His father is a Vietnam Veteran. Mike’s legacy, at least part of it is that his sons have grown up, and one of them has chosen to follow Mike into law enforcement.

We all miss you Mike. We will never forget you. And, we will make sure that even after we are gone, you and your family won’t be forgotten.

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