Thousands gather on Cape Cod for wake of slain police officer

Bagpipers led police from all over the country in a procession to St. Pius X Church on Tuesday.
Bagpipers led police from all over the country in a procession to St. Pius X Church on Tuesday.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

YARMOUTH — The body of Yarmouth police Officer Sean Gannon began its final journey Tuesday afternoon as thousands of law enforcement officers and Cape Cod residents gathered on the chilled streets here to attend his wake and reflect on his short but meaningful life.

Gannon, 32, was fatally shot Thursday, allegedly by a career criminal, as the well-known canine officer attempted to serve a probation warrant in the Marstons Mills neighborhood of Barnstable.

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On Tuesday, Yarmouth residents struggled to contain their emotions as Gannon’s body was carried into St. Pius X Church for a service that drew a long line of mourners, many of whom knew the officer from his work in the community.

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Others simply wished to express their condolences and gratitude for a police officer killed in the line of duty. Katie Sears, a Yarmouth mother of six children, passed out blue ribbons as her eyes welled with tears near the church doors.

“He was a great, all-around guy,” Sears said. “It’s hard, as a mother, to imagine what his mother is going through. And it’s terrible, as a mom, to explain to a child why something so tragic can happen to someone you know.”

Sean Ferguson, a 36-year-old Truro firefighter, lives near the church and watched with his wife and three young daughters as the crowds grew. Ferguson said he knew Gannon only in passing and recently saw him marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade here.

But he wanted his young family — daughters aged 6 years, 5 years, and 4 months — to witness the tribute and “to see how important people like Officer Gannon are to the community.”

“These are the people that we should be looking up to, instead of celebrities and sports figures,” Ferguson said.

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Yarmouth and Barnstable police stood guard over their slain colleague 24 hours a day at the Doane Beal and Ames Funeral Home in Hyannis before his flag-draped casket was taken to the church, where a funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Police from all over the country held a procession and walk by and entered the church.
Police from all over the country held a procession and walk by and entered the church.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Gannon leaves his wife, Dara, and many other family members, including his parents, Denise and Patrick. Governor Charlie Baker was among the first mourners to enter the church after the casket arrived.

Gannon worked eight years with the Yarmouth police following three years with the Stonehill College campus police. He was allegedly shot by Thomas Lantanowich, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and is being held without bail.

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Lantanowich spent four years in state prison on drug and gun charges and has an extensive criminal history of more than 100 charges.

The outpouring of community support has been a source of great comfort for grieving officers, Police Chief Frank Frederickson said. Comfort came from Mari Colson of Harwich, a waitress at the Country Kitchen in West Yarmouth, who said Gannon and his wife would eat there occasionally. “It’s so important to show support for our police officers,” Colson said. “They’re just doing their jobs.”

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The Saint John's Lions baseball team from Hyannis waited in line at the wake.
The Saint John's Lions baseball team from Hyannis waited in line at the wake.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(

Near her, Joanne Powers of Yarmouth held an American flag as she waited for the black hearse carrying Gannon’s body.

“This is what we can do,” Powers said of her quiet presence on the sidewalk. “He gave his life for us.”

Originally from New Bedford, Gannon graduated from Bishop Stang High School in Dartmouth in 2003 and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Westfield State University in 2007.

Jack Harris from West Yarmouth stood on the street in front of the church awaiting the procession
Jack Harris from West Yarmouth stood on the street in front of the church awaiting the procession.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

He volunteered at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Cod and the Islands, and was known for simple acts of generosity, such as bringing coffee to town workers at the landfill.

That’s who Katie Sears recalled — an upbeat officer who captivated residents as he gave demonstrations with Nero, his police dog.

His death, she said, brings home the hard truth that tragedy can strike anywhere.

“We feel on the Cape that we have a bubble of safety, and that all the bad stuff happens over the bridge,” Sears said.

Now, she said, that sense of security has frayed.

K-9 officers carried the casket into the church.
K-9 officers carried the casket into the church.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff