On August 19, 1997, 67-year-old Carl Drega, a man holding property ordinance grudges against city officials, was pulled over for what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. In actuality, Drega was being pulled over because of the threatening nature of some recent activity he exhibited against a local lawyer and part-time judge, Vickie Bunnell. What Drega did once he was pulled over was release a wrath he’d been holding onto apparently for years. Convinced local officials were out to get him in the most petty of ways (i.e., fining him for not having a building construction permit, writing him up for a vehicle violation that was subsequently dismissed, etc.), Drega’s paranoia served to fuel a rage no one could have expected, least of all the state trooper who’d stepped out of his vehicle to approach Drega, Scott Phillips. Phillips, 32, was met with a volley of shots fired from an AR-15 rifle. A few minutes later, a second police cruiser pulled into the same parking lot (that of a local grocery store), and Les Lord, 46, was killed before he could react as Drega peppered the cruiser’s windshield with shot after shot.
In the meantime, Phillips had attempted to crawl away from the lot and any innocents who might pull into the parking lot and/or in the grocery store. Drega made his way to Phillips and fired four more shots as the trooper attempted to shield himself with both hands.
The carnage continued when Drega took Phillips cruiser and drove to the News and Sentinel building. Staffers inside the building, upon seeing Drega carrying the rifle, locked the front door and fled out the back door into a rear parking lot. What they couldn’t know was that Drega had already walked through an alley and was headed in the same direction. When he spotted who he perceived to be one of his main antagonists, 45 year old, Vickie Bunnell, Drega shot her in the back. Dennis Joos, 51, a co-editor of The News and Sentinel, attempted to disarm Drega, and although he most likely saved the lives of all the others fleeing the scene, he lost his own life when Drega managed to keep his rifle and shoot Joos dead.
Unsatisfied with having killed four people, and most likely accepting his own death by eventual gunfire, Drega took off with the police cruiser yet again. In the end he would set up an ambush, whether by design or happenstance, but three more law enforcement officials would be wounded, one very seriously, before the madman was finally stopped.
In the Evil Day: Violence Comes to One Small Town, author Richard Adams Carey tells the heartbreaking tale of all those affected by Carl Drega’s deadly rampage. This compelling work of non-fiction is the end result of a 13 year project for Carey, during which he conducted interviews with many of the people directly involved in the events. It is a brilliantly told story that includes several different perspectives of the horror that befell the town of Colebrook on that fateful August afternoon.
Carey’s recounting of that day will have you sniffling and shedding tears long before the end. I was so intrigued by the story, I’ve gone to Google maps several times just to see the close proximity of the town where Drega (and Bunnell) lived, its closeness to Colebrook, the LePerl’s iga parking lot where the two state troopers were killed, and The News and Sentinel building and its parking lot, where Bunnell and Joos were murdered. It is a terrifying gaze at a community that suffered a living nightmare on a hot August afternoon.
You’ll also get a history lesson in this book that provides a more detailed accounting of the now infamous AR-15 rifle, the prototype of the U.S. military’s M-16. Although it can be used to hunt, that was never the intent of its design.
The author does justice to the victims of Carl Drega, as well as the survivors of Colebrook, by providing the details of their lives and avoiding the short-form journalism we so often read in newspaper accounts of such tragedies. Carey goes further than short-form, where people are introduced (like above), and the reader is provided a name and age before quickly moving on to the next victim, the next short-form detail, etc.
There is always so much more to each victim and the survivors, their families, friends, pets, etc. As Carey puts it: “The truths of who people are—the breadth of their identities, the way their lives fold into the lives of others—become shrunken and compressed. Multiply that through many newspaper stories, through many spot descriptions, and a composite portrait of Colebrook emerges that not only collapses short of reality but is weirdly skewed by the gravity of one day in its history.”
I can’t say enough about this book. It is a wonderful, compelling, intriguing, and ultimately the heartbreaking accounting of a horrible day in a small New Hampshire town victimized by a man haunted by demons none of us can ever understand. The concomitant rage and bloodshed of Carl Drega’s paranoiac rampage have since been replayed way too often in America … in schools like Sandy Hook elementary in Connecticut, a Colorado movie theatre, Fort Hood in Texas, New York City (where another two police officers were gunned down in cold blood ... there are so many others … far too many to list here.
On and off again love interest of Ms. Bunnell, owner and publisher of The News and Sentinel, and lifetime libertarian, John Harrigan, said of Carl Drega, “He was just a piece of space junk that happened to get us. It was our turn.”
One has to wonder, with all the similar and/or much worse mass murders that have occurred since August 19, 1997, when is it our turn (our communities/our loved ones/friends and/or innocents we never met)?
“Carey’s tension-filled report of a small town’s terror is portrayed with surprising love, bittersweetness, and hope, resulting in a beautifully written and enthralling true-crime tale.” —Booklist (*STARRED REVIEW*)
This week in the NFL …
Let’s face it, amici, there’s only ONE game that counts and that’s being played in Orchard Park, where Rex Ryan (for President?) and my beloved New York State Buffalo Bills take on Bill BeliCHEAT and his New England CHEATRIOTS. Last week the Bills shut down Andrew Luckless and left the Colts Coltless, but today they face a much tougher challenge. How does a team handle the cheating ways of New England?
Suffice it to say, when we win, it’ll be because the CHEATRIOTS couldn’t cheat (like all those years they didn’t win a so-called championship—all so-called wins***** with Asterisks since BeliCHEAT came to town (for those keeping score)) and should the Bills lose, well, the CHEATRIOTS “more likely than not” stole our playbooks, game signals, game plans … you name it.
Here are the more meaningless games around the NFL …
The Houston Texanoughts blew my first pick in my son’s suicide pool, so screw them. Patherless 30-21.
The new kid, Mariotta vs. the other somewhat new kid, Johnny football … Titans 30-20.
The Arizona by way of St. Louis Red boids clip the Cubbies, 24-17.
Chargerless over the Bangles, 34-28.
Lionettes crush the Minnesota Wagnerites, 31-13.
The Aints over Buckless, 30-10.
Moonachie Blue over the Tweetie boids from Atlanta, 21-20.
The Numbers route the Steeless in Pittsburg, 33-17.
Ramettes are for real … the Washington Idgits aren’t. Ramettes, 38-10.
Wes Cravens over the Raiderettes, 24-17.
Dolphinations over the Leopard spotted Jagwires, 24-13.
Eaglettes over the Bryantless Cowgirls, 27-20.
Packerless over the still hung over Sea Pigeons, 34-20.
And in the Monday nighter, the Moonachie Green team continues what Buffalo started against the Luckless Coltless. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, 24-20.
And in just 18 more days, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Philadelphia Fryers … GO BOLTS!