SOUTH YARMOUTH — Events to support the community and family of Yarmouth police Officer Sean Gannon, who was shot in line of duty on Thursday, have so far been mostly somber and supportive affairs, as was a pancake breakfast Sunday to benefit the 32-year-old officer's family.
But for the Yarmouth Police Department, the mix of emotions in the wake of Gannon's death has steadily come to include anger.
At a candlelight vigil Saturday night, Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson delivered an emotional speech that mixed the lyrics of "Let It Be" with a fiery plea for change. Flanked on both sides by local and state lawmakers, the chief vowed that Gannon's death would be a spark to create changes to better protect police.
"For the future, we are going to take Sean’s death and push it forward with the help of these men behind me — and they better do it — to change things to protect police officers," Frederickson said, referring to the state legislators at his side. "Because I’m sick of it.
"We have spent the last five years of getting crapped on. We’re not doing it any more," he said to cheers from the crowd. "You know our police budget for training just got cut by a million dollars? That’s ridiculous! Pay attention, everybody! Share your voices! Help us! I don’t want to see this happen to anybody ever again."
In an email Sunday, Frederickson clarified he was referring to the budget for the state Municipal Police Training Committee, which develops training standards and delivers training to local law enforcement personnel. The department was budgeted at $6.6 million in the current fiscal year but is projected to spend only $5.5 million, according to the state budget website. Gov. Charlie Baker's budget for fiscal year 2019 proposes funding it at just over $6.5 million.
Barely 24 hours after Gannon's death, the Yarmouth Police Department posted a link on its Facebook page to a Change.org petition, "Justice for Officer Gannon and Officer Nero," calling for Baker to "hold judges accountable for the improper decisions they make when sentencing a career criminal."
The man charged in Gannon's murder, 29-year-old Thomas Latanowich, has 125 prior criminal charges on his record, according to a Yarmouth Police Depatment Facebook post from Saturday morning. Latanowich, whom the department and its personnel now publicly refer to as "125" to avoid using his name, was wanted on a probation violation after he was absent for a home visit April 4 in Somerville and skipped a drug test April 5, according to the state Probation Service.
Officers from the Barnstable and Yarmouth police departments and the Massachusetts State Police were attempting to serve a warrant at a Marstons Mills house when Gannon was felled by gunfire while sweeping the home's attic. Nero, Gannon's police dog, was shot and continues to recover from his injuries.
Photo Gallery: Breakfast benefit for Yarmouth K-9 officer's family
On Saturday morning, in the same post in which the department began using "125" to refer to Latanowich, the language was blunt.
"The Massachusetts Criminal Justice System has let us down and failed to protect our community and our Yarmouth Police Department," the post says. "Our organization is pushing forward as we have broken families to support — a community who loves us — and a coward known as 125 behind bars ... who has earned the death penalty."
The death penalty has been abolished in Massachusetts since 1984 after a court ruling found it unconstitutional, according to the national nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. Efforts to revive the law through legislation have been unsuccessful.
But others have struck a softer note when mourning Gannon, an eight-year veteran of the force. State Rep. William Crocker, R-Centerville, said at the vigil Saturday and reiterated Sunday that a place of great pain is not the best place to start pushing new legislation.
"I think this is the time to remember a young man who was taken from the job he loved far too soon in a way that really just shocks all of us," he said Sunday. "I respect (Frederickson); he is coming from a place of emotion, and said so many times. He considers these guys his kids, and he seems to think he may have let the community down a little bit. He has not done that; he is lifting the community up and is leading the community. He speaks from the heart, and he's angry, and I think he has the right to be angry."
At the Howard Lodge AF & AM on Sunday, a breakfast that was first planned as an appreciation event for first responders became much more in the wake of Gannon's death.
The community turned out at large and, at $7 a head, paid for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes — and, more importantly, to support Gannon and his family, who will receive the proceeds from the event.
"This weekend was preplanned, but as soon as we knew what happened, I knew what we would do," said Ben Seymour, senior warden at the lodge and a Yarmouth firefighter and emergency medical technician.
The lodge made three additional trips to the grocery store before the event to stock up — and needed two more on Sunday — in anticipation of the turnout, Seymour said.
"It's terrible," said Kevin Duquette, a Harwich firefighter and EMT who came with his wife, Sara, and 2½-year-old daughter, Charlotte. "It'd definitely hard, a horrible situation."
— Follow Sean F. Driscoll on Twitter: @seanfdriscoll.