Tragedy Rips Open Skier Bode Miller's Hometown

The tiny town of Franconia, N.H., has an impressive history. For years, Franconia sat in the shadow of one of the world's most famous rock formations, the craggy face known as the Old Man of the Mountain, until the rocks tumbled down in 2003 wiping out the old man.

Renowned poet Robert Frost penned his inspirational poems at nearby Sugar Hill. And skiing's bad boy Bode Miller learned his sport at Franconia's Cannon Mountain.

But now, Franconia, nestled in the middle of New Hampshire's White Mountains, will be known for something else: a double shooting involving Miller's cousin, 24-year-old Liko Kenney, and a veteran police officer, 48-year-old Cpl. Bruce McKay, that left both men dead and the town of Franconia torn apart.

The bare facts of the case were outlined at a news conference by New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.

On Friday, Ayotte said, Kenney was driving home from his job at an Agway. McKay turned on his sirens and pulled him over. No one seems to know the reason, Ayotte told reporters. But Kenney sped off with McKay in hot pursuit. McKay eventually forced Kenney off the road and unloaded a can of pepper spray on Kenney and his friend, Caleb Macaulay. That's when Kenney pulled a gun and shot the officer four times and then ran him over, according to Ayotte, who reviewed the video from McKay's dashboard camera. Greg Floyd, who witnessed the shooting, picked up McKay's gun and shot Kenney, after he says Kenney refused to drop his gun. Floyd is not expected to be charged with a crime.

Those are the facts, but there's much more to this story as just about anyone in Franconia will tell you.

Liko Kenney 'a Dreamer'

The Miller and Kenney families are well known around this area. For the last 60 years, they have lived in a family compound just off Route 116 that houses a tennis camp, a barn and various rugged, wooden cabins.

One of those cabins, without heat or indoor plumbing, famously housed a young Bode Miller. Liko Kenney lived there, too. Liko seemed to thrive on a rustic lifestyle, having just made it through a tough New England winter, on his own, in an unheated cottage.

His uncle Bill Kenney, 56, described his nephew as "a dreamer. He loved it here. This was his home. He was so proud of himself for living on his own this winter and fending for himself."

Fending for themselves seemed to be in the family DNA. Jack Kenney, Bode's grandfather, moved to Easton in the 1940s. He had five children, Bill; Jo, Bode's mother; Bubba; Mike; and Davey, Liko's father.

The clan seemed to personify that independent, thumb-your-nose-at-authority spirit that New Hampshire is known for. This is a state after all whose license-plate motto reads "Live Free or Die." Bill said, "We moved here to live off the land. We do things on our own."

Bill said that his nephew had several run-ins with Cpl. Bruce McKay in the past and that he "wasn't a big fan of authority figures but. … That could describe pretty much everyone around here." Kenney said his nephew was afraid of McKay.

"McKay was a bully with a badge. … He was a rogue cop. Liko was driven to a point where he snapped. This police officer had been tormenting him for three or four years. … Liko was in constant fear."

It's pretty clear there was a history of bad blood between Liko and McKay that people here say seems to have stemmed from an incident in 2003, when McKay tried to arrest Liko for suspected illegal drug use.

Liko tried to resist arrest and was later convicted of assaulting McKay, although he said that it was McKay who had assaulted him. After that incident, Liko was told he could request another officer if McKay ever stopped him again. And, Bill said, his nephew was never the same.

"He armed himself because of that incident. He was traumatized."

Bill said many people in town had confrontations with McKay, including him. "In 2000, he stopped and arrested me for driving a noninspected car. For that I was handcuffed and thrown into the back seat of a cruiser."

It's hard to overstate just how much these shootings have consumed this town -- it's all anyone can seem to talk about. Was Liko a monster or just misunderstood? Was McKay a tormentor, a bully or just doing his job.

The answers depend on whom you talk to.

"This has divided our town. It's tearing us apart," said Connie McKenzie, who has lived Franconia for more than 35 years.

In fact, the entire drama unfolded on her front lawn.

McKenzie was driving back from town Friday when she saw that the road to her house was blocked.

"Someone said there's been a shooting on your lawn. I looked at them. I just couldn't get it into my head. Then I saw McKay's body on the ground. And they had already started CPR but I came over to help out and pump his chest. You know what really bothered me, though, no one was checking on Liko. He was slumped over his steering wheel and no one came to look at him," she said.

McKenzie lives close to the Kenney family and knew Liko well.

"Liko Kenney may have had some psychological issues, but he wasn't violent. People didn't trust Bruce McKay and they didn't like him. Heck I was afraid of him. You know when a police officer gets shot, it's a big deal. I understand that, but I want people to know that we loved that boy Liko. He was our native son. I don't want him to go down as just a cop killer. He was full of life and articulate and funny."

Mickey d'eRam, who stood outside the Floradale Flower Shop talking about the shooting with McKenzie, agreed that McKay often went too far.

"This policeman harassed that boy. He knew what he was doing to him. He would always go after the kids. He would catch them speeding and act like it was armed robbery or something," d'eRam said.

These women, and others around town, described McKay as an overzealous cop who treated even minor infractions as major crimes. They said people complained about McKay to the local Selectmen and to the police department, but no one took any action.

Across the street from the flower shop, outside the Franconia Village Store, retired Franconia Police Chief Gary Young told a very different story.

"You always hear complaints about how an officer does his job. But very few people could ever stand in a cop's shoes. From everything I have heard he was just doing his job," Young said.

And, about a mile down the road, at the Franconia police station, 33-year-old Officer Chris Fowler also defended McKay.

"McKay was a very laid-back guy. His family was the most important thing in his life. But his job was a very close second. He truly had a passion for his job. You know, it's a complex situation in a small town. You're touching people's lives in very intimate ways and everyone knows everyone else. It's not easy. I can't step into his mind and what he did that night — should he have stopped Liko or not. The bottom line is it's up to an officer's discretion."

Fowler has been on the Franconia force about a year. McKay was his field training officer. Fowler said it's not as easy as some might think to be a small-town cop. The station has three full-time officers and three part-time officers. Most of the time, officers are on patrol by themselves, not in two-man crews like in big-city departments. And if an officer needs emergency backup it can be many miles and many minutes away.

Keith Cosentino, a former Littleton, N.H., cop, who worked with McKay, came to the police station to pay his respects.

"I wanted to come here to show my daughter why Dad has been kind of sad for the past few days. We brought some flowers. He was a fantastic guy and a good friend. He was just the ultimate professional. Whatever people are saying about him now, it's just not true."

Fowler said a funeral for McKay was being planned at Cannon Mountain for Thursday. Thousands of officers from across the state and beyond are expected to attend. McKay was to be married in July in the very spot where his funeral will now be held.

Young, the retired police chief, planned to attend McKay's funeral. "This is a terrible loss for everybody on both sides. We all have to go through the healing process. People feel hurt, but this is still a great little town."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been set for Liko's funeral.

At the Kenney compound, Bill stood outside his handmade cabin, leaning on an old car, and talked about his family. "We were the original back-to-the-land people. We are all about peace, hope and love. That's what makes this whole thing so strange. The one thing about Liko, he loved his freedom. If he had a mission, it was freedom."

Freedom, presumably, to "Live Free or Die."