15 Law Enforcement Officers Murdered By Domestic Extremists Since the Oklahoma City Bombing
Since the Oklahoma City bombing, domestic extremists have murdered 15 law enforcement officers. Each of their deaths was a unique tragedy.
By Susy Buchanan
Leslie George Lord, 45
Scott Edward Phillips, 32
New Hampshire State Police (Colebrook)
Aug. 19, 1997
Nestled in the Great Northwoods of New Hampshire, Colebrook's 2,300 residents are more like a big family than a small town -- a quiet northern hamlet formerly best known for its annual Moose Festival.
That all changed one August afternoon in 1997, when an eccentric, government-hating loner and the area's longtime black sheep, Carl Drega, exploded in a violent rage. Drega's antigovernment views finally pushed him over the edge, transforming a loudmouthed extremist into a rampaging murderer.
The first sign that came in was a 911 call at 2:38 p.m. On the line was a grocery store manager witnessing a horrific scene unfold outside his store. "There's somebody shooting in the parking lot!" the manager exclaimed. "Somebody is shooting at the state trooper!"
The man under fire was trooper Scott Phillips. Phillips, 32, had been on his way to get a haircut when he spotted Drega's decrepit pickup -- a truck in such poor shape that Phillips decided to cite Drega for excessive rust.
Scott Phillips graduated from high school in 1984 and served as a military policeman in Panama before his discharge in 1989. He'd been with the state police ever since. Like many young fathers, Phillips was struggling to balance his love of the outdoors with family responsibilities. He had recently cut back on a serious skiing habit to spend more time with his young sons, Keenan and Clancy. An avid jogger, Phillips often took his boys with him when he ran, pushing them in baby strollers as he loped through Colebrook's serene streets. Family, it seemed, was everything to Phillips. Friends say he was the kind of man who would wake up early to start and warm up his wife's car on frigid winter mornings.
Phillips called for backup as he followed Drega into the grocery store's parking lot. But before reinforcements could arrive, Drega stepped out of his truck and shot Phillips with an AR-15 rifle. Phillips fell to the pavement wounded, and crawled for cover just as trooper Leslie Lord arrived on the scene.
Lord, married and the father of two teenage sons, was nearing the end of his career. Fellow officers describe him as jovial, a kind of Santa Claus in uniform. Leslie Lord was also an avid snowmobiler, hunter and fisherman who had been chief of police in the nearby town of Pittsburgh until leaving in 1987 to become a state trooper. He lived next to a car repair shop on Main Street and could often be found tinkering with cars, offering advice to mechanics and clients with a smile on his face that easily segued into a notoriously infectious laugh.
Drega shot Lord in the head before he could step out of his cruiser. Then he walked over to the fallen Phillips and shot him several more times with a 9mm pistol.
Drega snatched Scott Phillips' trooper hat and took off in his cruiser. At a building housing the local newspaper and some law offices, he shot dead a judge and a newspaper editor who tried to tackle him. Then he drove home, changed clothes and set his house on fire. Heading out again in the cruiser, he crossed the nearby border into Vermont before leaving the car by the roadside and clambering up a forested ridge. From there, he managed to ambush police officers searching for him, wounding three more before finally being shot to death himself.
It was the worst day Colebrook had ever known, but it soon became clear that it could have been even worse. Drega had been converting his house to a fortress, complete with concrete bunker and close to 200 homemade M-79 grenades and 86 pipe bombs, along with 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate and 61 gallons of diesel fuel - the components of a bomb like the one used in Oklahoma City.
More than 4,000 law enforcement officers, some from as far away as Alaska, came to mourn state troopers Scott Phillips and Leslie Lord. So many men and women flocked to little Colebrook that they were put up in locals' homes and on cots in public buildings after the town's 100 hotel rooms had filled.
The funeral was a scene of public anguish. "On Tuesday afternoon, a rock was dropped in the pond of our life," State Police Col. John Barthelmes told the crowd as hundreds quietly wept. "The waves washed all over us."