|U.S Senator Kelly Ayotte, left, congratulates Greenland Police Chief Tara Laurent on receiving the "Dedication and Professionalism" award for her department at the 2013 New Hampshire Congressional Law Enforcement Awards held Friday night in Concord. (Bruce Preston / Union Leader)
"Leading up to this, coming down here today, I thought it would be significantly better. But hearing the facts again, it's like tearing off a scab and bringing it all back up to the surface," said Laurent, who has attended several such award ceremonies, including the New Hampshire Union Leader Hero Awards in May. "But at the same time, there's a lot of pride in seeing everybody who helped us recognized publicly and on a federal level for what they did for us."
Laurent said that holding back her emotions was difficult when, on the stage receiving her department's award for dedication and professionalism at the Congressional Law Enforcement Awards ceremony at the New Hampshire Police Academy, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte pulled her in from a handshake into an embrace.
She said Ayotte made herself available for personal phone calls and support in the aftermath of the April 2012 tragedy, in which four other officers were also injured by gunfire after trying to serve a search warrant on suspected drug dealer Cullen Mutrie, who also killed his ex-girlfriend, Brittney Tibbetts, and himself.
"Senator Ayotte was really there for us," she said.
Ayotte and her colleagues, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster, hosted Friday night's event to highlight and honor the state's police officers who performed admirably, sometimes at great personal risk.
"When there are people celebrating with their families, there are people out there, our law enforcement officers, who are keeping us safe and sound and handling some of the most difficult cases that anyone can confront," said Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general.
Those officers included Newton police Officer Christopher Thurlow, who was serving with the drug task force that responded to Mutrie's home. Thurlow, running through the line of fire, grabbed a first-aid kit from a patrol car and tended to injured officers despite the risk to his life.
"It's a great honor to be here today," said Thurlow, who was accompanied by his wife, Jenny, and son, Hunter.
Officers who responded to the Greenland shooting were at the forefront of the ceremony, but other officers received awards for their actions as well, including Berlin police officers who rushed into a burning home to save a woman's life and officers who saved the life of a man trying to commit suicide.
"I know that the events we are going to describe are some tragic and some traumatic," Shaheen said. "But tonight is really an opportunity to celebrate not those events themselves but our law enforcement community in New Hampshire and the heroism and skill and expertise that the people we're celebrating tonight bring to their jobs every single day."