For the first time since Monday's house explosion in Salem, New Hampshire, one of the first responding officers is speaking out in an exclusive interview with NBC Boston.
“We all just want to protect people, help people, be their rock,” said Salem Officer Brian Lawrence on Wednesday.
As a police officer, Lawrence admits his instinct is to run toward danger, but on Monday night, he was overcome with the sense that something wasn’t right.
“I think we both had a bad feeling in our stomachs about the situation,” he recalled.
He and a fellow officer had just walked up to 20 Irving St., responding to a typical call for a neighbor dispute, when they heard a hissing noise and smelled propane.
“We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘hey, did you smell that,’ and we agreed to back out at that point,” Lawrence recalled.
They kept their eyes on the house, but started moving away. Within seconds, the house exploded.
“Best way I can describe it is kind of like a movie,” he said. “You could feel the pressure in your chest.”
The investigation paints a chilling picture for police. Authorities say the homeowner, 55-year-old Charles Hill, had covered his property in booby traps and barricades as if he was preparing for a confrontation.
“It’s definitely eye opening,” Lawrence said.
Police say Hill was found dead in the basement of an apparent suicide. Near his body, investigators recovered three guns, two knives, and more than a hundred rounds of ammunition. In the house, Hill had more than 1,700 rounds of ammunition and commercial-grade fireworks. Authorities say there’s a chance he may have been planning an attack on police.
“You definitely think of those things, but if you think too much, it will tear you up inside,” Lawrence said.
And while Lawrence says he’s thankful to be alive to tell his story, he does it with a heavy heart. He wishes someone could’ve helped Hill before it came to this.
State investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the explosion.