August 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Killer Booby-Trapped His Property Explosives, Tunnels Found In Aftermath Of Murder Spree

Randi Goldberg Associated Press
 

An eccentric troublemaker who coolly gunned down four people before being killed by police hid hundreds of pounds of booby-trapped explosives throughout his rural property.

Authorities found at least 600 pounds of ammonium nitrate in three outbuildings on Carl Drega’s property and feared more might be found in booby traps in “a fairly elaborate system of tunnels” built beneath and adjacent to his home, Associate Attorney General Michael Ramsdell said Wednesday.

Drega, 67, who had a long-running feud with local officials over zoning and property issues, also bought 61-1/2 gallons of diesel fuel Tuesday. Ramsdell said Drega used some of the fuel to burn down his house in the middle of his killing spree.

After removing 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate from Drega’s property, authorities used blasting caps to set his barn on fire Wednesday night. Something inside the barn exploded, sending flames shooting out, they said.

State police also found bomb-making books and a weapons manual Wednesday in the smoldering ruins of Drega’s house.

Drega gunned down a judge that he had a grudge against, a newspaper editor and two state troopers before being shot to death after a 45-minute gunbattle with police, authorities said. Four people were wounded.

His sister, Jane Drega of East Haven, Conn., said Wednesday that her brother told her police and other officials in New Hampshire had been harassing him. She said she thought he “got to the point where he couldn’t take any more.”

Authorities gave this account of Tuesday’s violence:

Tuesday afternoon, Trooper Scott Phillips followed Drega into the parking lot of a grocery store, planning to cite him for having rust holes in the bed of his red pickup truck. Drega quickly shot Phillips with an assault rifle, but did not kill him.

Not aware shots had been fired, Trooper Leslie Lord arrived and was shot and killed.

Drega returned to the wounded Phillips and shot him four times with a pistol. He then stole the trooper’s cruiser and his bulletproof vest.

Drega then drove to the weekly News and Sentinel building, which also housed the law office of part-time Judge Vickie Bunnell, a former Columbia selectwoman who had tangled with Drega over property disputes. Drega shot Bunnell five times in the parking lot.

Editor Dennis Joos, 51, tried to help, but Drega wrestled free and shot him eight times.

Drega left, set fire to his own home and went searching for another former selectman, who was not home.

He then drove to Vermont, shooting New Hampshire Fish and Game Officer Wayne Saunders, who escaped serious injury. Continuing south, he parked the stolen police cruiser on a logging road.

Two Vermont troopers with a police dog were the first to approach the cruiser. James Walton, commissioner of public safety, said when the dog signaled that something was up a hill, one of the troopers yelled, “Ambush! Hit the dirt.”

In the gunfire that followed, U.S. Border Patrol officer John Pfeifer, 33, was critically wounded, shot in the chest; New Hampshire Trooper Jeffrey Caulder, 32, was shot in the pelvis; and New Hampshire trooper Robert Haase, 38, was cut on one foot by shrapnel.

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