Carl Drega

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Carl Drega (January 19, 1935 – August 19, 1997) was a man from Bow, New Hampshire, who killed two state troopers, a judge and a newspaper editor and wounded three other law enforcement officers before being shot to death in a firefight with police. His story is chronicled in the book The Ballad of Carl Drega by Vin Suprynowicz.

Background[edit]

Drega had a long history of conflict with government officials over code enforcement issues, starting in the 1970s over whether he could use tarpaper to side his vacation house in Columbia, New Hampshire. He claimed that in 1981, 80 feet (24 m) of the riverbank along his property collapsed during a rainstorm. Drega decided to dump and pack enough dirt to repair the erosion damage, saying this would restore his lot along the Connecticut River to its original size. State officials, on the other hand, contested that Drega was trying to change the course of the river. In 1995, the town selectman Vickie Bunnell accompanied a town tax assessor to Drega's property in a dispute over an assessment. Drega fired shots into the air to drive them away. Drega bought an AR-15 rifle and armor vest, and began equipping his property with early-warning electronic noise and motion detectors.

Details[edit]

On August 19, 1997, at about 2:30, New Hampshire state trooper Scott Phillips stopped Drega in the parking lot of LaPerle's IGA supermarket in neighboring Colebrook, New Hampshire for having too much rust on his pickup truck.[1] Drega got out of his truck with his rifle and fired upon Trooper Phillips. Trooper Phillips was hit but returned fire before retreating into a nearby field. Drega followed Phillips into the field and executed him. Trooper Les Lord pulled into the LaPerle's parking lot moments later, and from several hundred feet away, Drega shot and killed Lord before he could even get out of his police car. Drega then stole Phillips' police car, and drove to the office of Colebrook District Court judge Vickie Bunnell to kill her. Bunnell reportedly carried a handgun in her purse out of fear of Drega, but may not have had it with her that day. Seeing Drega approaching the building with his rifle, she warned fellow staffers to evacuate as she ran for an exit. Drega shot Bunnell in the back from a range of about 30 feet (9.1 m), killing her. Dennis Joos, editor of the local Colebrook News and Sentinel, attempted to disarm Drega after Bunnell fell. During the struggle Drega shot and killed Joos with a second firearm.

Drega returned to his property and set his house on fire. New Hampshire Fish & Game warden Wayne Saunders observed Drega driving the state police car. Drega turned and crossed the state line to Bloomfield, Vermont, exited the police car and fired upon Saunders. Saunders was hit with several bullets through his vehicle, including one that struck his badge, saving him from a likely fatal wound. Saunders retreated under the hail of fire by driving in reverse, and crashing into the Connecticut River.

Drega set up his last stand on a dead end road on the Vermont side of the river. Police from numerous state, local and federal agencies descended upon Drega's position. Drega sprang his ambush, shooting NH state trooper Jeffrey Caulder in the lower abdomen, NH state trooper Robert Haase in the foot, and a US Border Patrol agent John Pfeifer in the chest.

After the gunfire died down, agents moved a police vehicle to the scene in an attempt to evacuate Pheifer before he bled to death. But once the vehicle approached, Drega began firing again, forcing the officers to take cover. Eventually, NH state trooper Charles West and Border Patrol agent Stephen Brooks advanced up a slope to Drega's position. As Drega stepped out from behind a tree to fire, Brooks opened up with his M14 rifle while West fired a slug from his Remington 870 shotgun, killing Drega and ending the gunfight.[2]

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