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Departments : Shots Fired

Shots Fired: Bloomfield, Vermont 08/19/1997

One heavily armed man declared war on his community, and a New Hampshire trooper and a Border Patrol agent had to take desperate action to stop him.

February 25, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

West received the 1998 State Trooper of the Year award from his agency.

As they passed Robinson and his K-9, West offered a suggestion to let the dog loose to flush out the attacker. But Robinson was concerned that the heavy gunfire may have confused the dog. The last thing he wanted was for the K-9 to confuse a fellow officer for an aggressor and further complicate what was already shaping up to be a nightmarish situation.

West assisted Caulder back out of the kill zone, continually scanning the bank for the suspect. But heavy gunfire clouded the issue and West wasn't sure that anyone had even gotten a bead on the suspect's exact location.

When they were almost back to the staging area, Caulder and West were met by EMTs, who had bravely pulled onto the road escorted by two U.S. Border Patrol agents. The EMTs assumed control of Caulder and were escorted back to safety by the agents.

Rescue Attempt

West began a low crawl back down the road to rejoin the search team and to help the seriously wounded Pfeifer. Haase had suffered a foot injury, but remained on the scene. The officers agreed that their most pressing priority was to get Pfeifer out to safety.

As some officers provided cover, others-West included-doubled back to the staging area to retrieve the sheriff's Jeep. They planned to use the Jeep as cover to reach the injured Pfeifer before he bled out.

West, U.S. Border Patrol Agents Stephen Brooks and Marty Hewson, and New Hampshire Fish and Game Warden Sam Sprague walked alongside the Jeep with their rifles resting on the rooftop aimed toward the bank. Sheriff Amos Colby backed the Jeep down the road as quickly as was tactically prudent.

About 30 minutes had passed with no shots fired. The team suspected that Drega had abandoned his ambush spot and fled the woods. The Jeep reached Pfeifer, who was lying on the ground with a serious chest wound. As West, Brooks, and Sprague picked up the injured officer, Drega opened fire again.

Once again, the officers pitched themselves against the bank. Each knew it was up to them to somehow take Drega out before Pfeifer bled out. But Drega had the high ground-and cover.

Frontal Assault

The officers realized that their only option was to take the fight to the man.

"You know we're going to have to do this," asserted Brooks.

"I don't really want to," said West, whose nervous smile assured Brooks that he wasn't alone in his misgivings. "This is gonna sting," Brooks said.

And with that, the two officers started up the slope.

They'd advanced only a couple of feet when Drega-wearing a ballistic vest and Trooper Phillips' campaign hat-stepped from behind a tree. West ordered the man to drop his rifle, but Drega raised the weapon in their direction.

Both officers returned fire simultaneously, with Brooks firing several rounds from his M14 as West fired a slug from his Remington 870 shotgun. Drega dropped where he'd stood and died at the scene.

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