Military and Police

Yarmouth Policeman Shot, Killed by Career Criminal Who Was Recently Released from Prison

“How did he get the firearm?” rhetorically asked Michael O’Keefe, the district attorney. “He’s a criminal!” he answered emphatically. The individual to whom he is referring is 29-year-old career criminal Thomas Latanowich, a man whose rap sheet amounts to 114 arrests as an adult and whose criminal history started when he was a 17-year-old charged with cocaine distribution. Sadly, this revolving-door thug was also free on bond regarding another criminal charge and had a probation violation for which 32-year-old Yarmouth police Officer Sean Gannon came knocking with an arrest warrant in hand on Thursday, April 12, 2018.

Officer Gannon had his man barricaded in a home on Blueberry Lane…until shots rang out, striking him in the head. Officer Gannon served with the Yarmouth Police Department for eight years and was an element of its canine unit, specializing in drug detection. That means Officer Gannon’s police canine partner is now without his tried, true, and trusted handler.


Officer Sean Gannon and his canine partner “Nero” (pictuired in the middle) were one of three YPD canine teams deployed by the agency. (Credit: Yarmouth Police Department)

According to WHDH, Coria Holland, communications director with the Massachusetts Probation Service, iterated that upon release from prison Latanowich’s probation stipulations entailed “random drug screenings, a mental health evaluation, anger management programming, a stay away-no contact order, and he had to maintain employment.” It seems apparent he failed those conditions miserably and once again flouted the criminal justice system.

“When Latanowich did not show up for a home visit and a drug test, a warrant was issued for his arrest,” wrote Sharman Sacchetti. Given his excessive rap sheet, incarceration stints since juvenile age, and the post-release process, it is fair to say Latanowich knew the consequences of his wanton lifestyle. But the wrong person paid the penalty in this case.

With the laws on the books in Massachusetts, the district attorney may apply additional charges on the alleged shooter since the canine is a sworn law enforcement officer as well. Besides Officer Gannon succumbing to his wounds, his canine partner “Nero” was also shot and wounded in the exchange of gunfire between Yarmouth police and alleged cop-killer Latanowich. That means additional crimes-against-justice charges may be added to the criminal information affidavits filed by the district attorney’s office.

Some prosecutors argue additional charges are not necessary when you have homicide at the fore. Although not a prosecutor, I contend loading-up all pertinent charges and dumping the heap at the courthouse is always best, especially given the defense tactics which seek to whittle away on behalf of defendants.

According to the Massachusetts legislature, police canines are protected and violators are adjudicated as follows in Section 77A: “Whoever willfully tortures, torments, beats, kicks, mutilates, injures, disables or otherwise mistreats, a dog or horse owned by a police department or police agency of the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions or whoever, willfully by any action whatsoever, interferes with the unlawful performance of such dog or horse shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars and not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years or both. Persons violating this section may be arrested without a warrant by any officer qualified to serve criminal process provided said offense is committed in his presence.”

Nero was reportedly shot in the face.

Albeit biased as a law enforcement officer whose adoration for canines and animals is exceedingly high, I contend there is little bite in that law. Nevertheless, if not at arraignment when charging documents are read, the state always has the right to supplement its prosecution by adding charges it deems statutorily applicable and for which probable cause exists. However, the major crux is the murder of Yarmouth police Officer Sean Gannon whose legacy immediately influenced invocation.

Yarmouth police Chief Frank Frederickson spoke on several occasions since the slaying of Officer Gannon, saying “Sean was a wonderful, wonderful young man…the sky was the limit to him. Gonna miss him…terribly.” Those words were spoken to the troops, citizens and media who presented at Yarmouth police headquarters.

In a separate press conference in which Chief Frederickson donned Class-A dress blues, he expressed Officer Gannon “died doing what he loved.” Something Chief Frederickson said during this particular media conference struck me as a first. Through tears and a somber tone, Chief Frederickson described his sentiments upon hearing one of his police officers was shot: “It went to my parental instincts and then my chiefly instincts…they’re all my kids.” His son also serves on the police force.

With his litany of sordid crimes comprising violence, firearms and drugs in his criminal history, Latanowich can now stand trial for allegedly killing a Yarmouth policeman.

How does anyone receive the right to walk freely after committing over 100 crimes as an adult, still violate laws, get granted a bond to roam at-will, and continue to flip a bird in the face of justice? That is the chronic query percolating the brain cells of cops and victims alike. Indeed, pretrial interventions are not necessarily a bad idea for those who are deemed eligible. That usually amounts to petit crimes for first-time offenders. Latanowich did not fit the bill. In fact, in general accounting he didn’t fit being billed worthy of walking freely among society. Buy the state of Massachusetts billed it differently. The incident conjures the notion: did the criminal justice system “let us down”? Yarmouth cops especially have that query seared upon their souls.

District Attorney O’Keefe candidly uttered “People get sentenced, people finish their sentence, they get out.” That is too deadpan for me. You?

In 2007, Latanowich was arrested for allegedly strangling a pregnant lady. In 2010 he was at-bat again, confronting drug and firearm charges. Retrospectively, it seemed Latanowich had a penchant for drugs; he was arrested in 2007 with possessing illegal substances. There is no mystery in what happens to the human psyche with chronic drug abuse. Monsters are spawned by chemical reactions. But it is the penal system’s responsibility to get them clean and maintain that status. There in lock-up. What could go wrong, right?

The forensic deep study will be part and parcel in the investigation, predominantly the post-killing analysis having to do with the judiciary (could be plural), honing in on which judge(s) endorsed Latanowich’s release time and again…and why. Cape District Attorney O’Keefe pledges “it will all be reviewed.” For however our system may not be perfect—some may label it “broken”—a policeman is dead because a bona fide anti-justice aficionado decided to abuse the freedom granted by the very institution upon which he maliciously opened fire.

Does the Massachusetts penal system need review? Are judiciary authorities too soft on proven repeat offenders? Does it appear the state legislature has some work to do in terms of revamping charging/sentencing levels?

According to Boston25 News,  Thomas Latanowich “is being held without bail and is due back in court on June 26.”

There really is not much to comment on the alleged cop-killer. It suffices to say how inexplicable it is that he was not incarcerated but was armed and determined to not go with police in possession of an active arrest warrant. This was certainly not Latanowich’s first stroll around the block. As a career policeman, I’ve seen my fair share of “frequent flyers” who were in and out of jail as often as I refueled the police cruiser to take the “trip to county.” It is bewildering. And only once have I come close to any suspect with a lengthy arrest record of 114 charges—I believe it was 103 with my arrestee, and he had no problem boasting about it while en route to jail, again.

District Attorney O’Keefe revealed that Latanowich “had just served four to five years in state prison for gun charges.” That was the purpose of his probation this time. Seems “scared straight” never entered his mind.

Ending this piece with a show of reverence for a warrior, Officer Gannon’s assigned police cruiser was towed from the Blueberry Lane crime scene with its emergency lights flashing. It was methodically rolled off the flatbed wrecker truck and emplaced aside the Yarmouth Police Department headquarters marquee, inviting citizens and neighboring police agency personnel to memorialize the loss of a young policeman. Yarmouth police executives and city officials proclaimed the cruiser draped in black/purple bunting will have it’s red/blue lights illuminated, coloring the Yarmouth air as it did when Officer Gannon pursued justice.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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