BARNSTABLE — Sean Gannon was a beloved figure in this Cape Cod town, from the town landfill where he would bring workers coffee to the schools where he visited with his police dog Nero.
“He was a bright spot in anybody’s day, and he was really good with little kids,” said Carol Woodbury, superintendent of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District.
Gannon, 32, had been a Yarmouth police officer for eight years when he was fatally shot Thursday afternoon while serving a warrant. On Friday, the local schools made counselors available to help children cope with his death.
“He was very dedicated to his profession and to the community,” Woodbury said. “It’s just such a loss for us.”
At the police department, black and purple banners hung from the building. In the front lobby, a memorial featured a large photo of the smiling officer kneeling with Nero.
“End Of Watch 4/12/18,” a message read.
Bouquets, a candle, and framed photographs of Gannon with his wife and fellow officers lined the memorial. Outside, dozens of bouquets had been left at a stone edifice honoring the 13 other Yarmouth officers killed in the line of duty since 1952.
Nearby, a Yarmouth police cruiser was covered in flowers, balloons, and messages of condolence. A wreath held a ribbon that said “In Honor of Officer Gannon.”
Jeanie Linhares, 57, was among those who came to pay their respects.
“He’s so young,” Linhares said. “I heard he was trying to help out a lot of young kids who had problems . . . It’s so sad because he was going to do his job, and then this happened.”
Another visitor, Tracey Ellis, 59, said she was deeply shaken by Gannon’s killing.
“This one really hits home,” said Ellis, a lifelong Yarmouth resident. “His poor family.”
On Friday morning, the students and faculty at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth observed a moment of silence in honor of Gannon and his family.
Gannon, who was originally from New Bedford, graduated from Bishop Stang in 2003. Peter Shaughnessy, the school’s principal, called the shooting “senseless.”
“It’s just an awful thing,” Shaughnessy said. “This is a really, really good guy.”
Shaughnessy recalled Gannon as an active student who played tennis, ran cross-country, and participated in a number of extracurricular activities.
“We will always remember his sacrifice and service,” he said.
Gannon attended college at Westfield State University, where he served as a resident assistant and studied abroad, university officials said. He received a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice in 2007.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Westfield State alumnus Officer Sean Gannon,” Westfield State University president Ramon S. Torrecilha said in a statement. “Our faculty and staff are privileged to have had a role in preparing Officer Gannon for his service-focused career that tragically came to an end yesterday.”
Gannon was still in college when he began his career in law enforcement as a summer officer in Nantucket. He was assigned as a bike patrol officer, said police chief William J. Pittman.
After graduating, Gannon joined the Stonehill College police department, where he worked for three years.
“Well known and respected on campus, Sean was a talented and dedicated police officer who excelled during his three years at the college,” said Martin McGovern, a college spokesman. “His colleagues in the Stonehill College Police Department are heartbroken by his death as is everyone in the Stonehill community who knew him.”
Gannon began working for the Yarmouth Police Department eight years ago. His wife, Dara, works for the Cape Cod Foundation.
Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven G. Xiarhos said the Yarmouth Police Foundation (www.yarmouthpolicefoundation.org) will serve as the official fund for donations to help Gannon’s family.
Xiarhos said a candlelight vigil is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at police headquarters.
Beth Marcus, the co-owner of Cape Cod Beer, a brewery in Hyannis, said Gannon and his wife had made an “incredible impact” on Cape Cod, leaving those who knew them in shock.
“We’re devastated by this,” she said. “We’re super heartbroken for [Dara], her family, and his family.”
Marcus and her husband had planned a party Friday to celebrate the brewery’s 14th anniversary, but decided to host the event as a fund-raiser in Gannon’s memory.
In New Bedford, residents were mourning the loss of a native son. “Officer Gannon made the ultimate sacrifice while doing his job as a police officer, which is to keep his community safe,” Mayor Jon Mitchell said. “For that, we owe him our utmost gratitude.”
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands, where Gannon volunteered, echoed those sentiments, and posted a photo of Gannon on Facebook with a message of condolence.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of our Big Brother and Yarmouth Police Dept. Officer Sean Gannon,” the Facebook post read. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean’s family, his Little Brother, and the entire Cape Cod police community.”
At the memorial, Robert Eckert, 49, said he chatted with Gannon regularly when Gannon would visit his crew at the town landfill.
“He’d check on us, see if we wanted coffee,” Eckert said. “If we wanted something, he would go down and get it.”
Gannon was an upbeat, selfless person, he said.
“I think he would probably do anything for anybody,” Eckert said. “Tears just go down your eyes.”