Yarmouth Police Chief Channels Anger Into Push for Change

The audio brought back a voice from the grave.

“She was able to tell me that she was attacked by her boyfriend. She described Tommy as her boyfriend,” Yarmouth Officer Sean Gannon said.

Gannon was testifying in court on Feb. 1, 2017, in Barnstable District Court, working to salvage the state’s case against a man accused of choking his pregnant girlfriend in Yarmouth the year before.

The woman pleaded the Fifth and refused to cooperate. Prosecutors had little left: A 911 call from the alleged victim, and the testimony of Officer Gannon, who had arrived on the scene less than 10 minutes after the call and took a brief statement.

The defendant was Thomas Latanowich. A little more than a year later, Latanowich would be charged with Gannon’s murder.

“She told me that Tommy got on top of her and began strangling her after he pushed her down on the floor,” Gannon told the court, presided over that day by Judge Thomas Barrett. “At that point, he took a knife, went out and stabbed her front left tire of her vehicle on the front lot and ran away on foot.”

Latanowich was on probation, having been released from a four-year sentence in prison for gun charges and trafficking heroin. A conviction in the domestic assault case would have kept him behind bars.

Barrett warned the alleged victim, when she appeared in court to invoke her Fifth Amendment right, what her decision could mean.

“You understand if you don’t testify in this case, the charges against Mr. Latanowich may well be dismissed? Do you understand that?” Barrett said.

“Yes, your honor,” said the woman, whom NBC10 Boston will not identify because she was an alleged victim of domestic violence and was not charged with a crime in this incident.

After listening to the 911 call and hearing Gannon’s testimony, the judge dismissed the charges.

“The Commonwealth has to go with the hand it’s dealt unfortunately. With this individual invoking a Fifth Amendment privilege, there’s not much left,” Barrett said.

Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson is still raw from losing Gannon last month.

“First and foremost anger, but it also adds some confidence the fury side will push forward changes,” he said on Tuesday after hearing the court audio.

Frederickson, who gave an impassioned speech at a vigil the Saturday after Gannon’s death, said he wants to channel the pain and anger his community feels toward hardening the state’s criminal justice system, which he said appears soft on crime.

He is meeting with other citizens, police chiefs, departments and unions to push for changes to the bail system, the appointment and review of judges, and other measures at the State House.

“Look at the legislation that just passed,” he said of a recent criminal justice reform law. “The bail they put in is based on your ability to pay”.

He is among a growing group calling for changes including a review of state judges, who are appointed to the bench for life.

“When you see the result of one dead police officer, it should be a game changer,” he said.

As the NBC10 Boston Investigators have been reporting, it’s not just one dead officer.

Four officers—Woburn Officer Jack Maguire, Auburn Officer Ron Tarentino Jr., Gannon, and Somerset, Maine, County Sheriff Cpl. Eugene Cole—in the last decade were killed by men, most with lengthy, violent histories, released by the Massachusetts judicial system.

“Somehow it is that cultural acceptance that we don’t want to be too hard on some people, or we want to give people a second chance, which is OK, but only in certain circumstances,” Frederickson said.

He said he felt the system is too “catch-and-release.” Now he wants to take a harder look.

“Until the death of Sean, it was hard to think of because we just accepted it. That’s just the way it was,” he said.

At the State House, Frederickson said pointed to funding for police training, which has been cut by $1 million,

Over the last decade, Massachusetts has spent the least amount of money per officer on training than any other state in the country, according to several reports and studies.

“This has been going on 25 years,” he said.

He vows that his group for change will not vanish along with the headlines.

“Almost like a bulldozer. I’m slow but nothing is stopping me,” he said.

Gannon was shot to death outside a home in the Marstons Mills section in Barnstable on April 12 while attempting to serve a warrant.

He died shortly later at Cape Cod Hospital. His K9, Nero, survived and has been released.

Latanowich was charged with Gannon’s murder and ordered held without bail.

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