Barnstable County

‘I won’t be done until I’m dead’: Mother of murdered Yarmouth police officer fights for change

YARMOUTH, Mass. — More than 4 years ago, an act of violence permanently reshaped a local family and police department. In 2018, Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon was serving a search warrant when he was fatally shot.

His family has channeled their pain into a call to action ever since. Boston 25 News Anchor Kerry Kavanaugh recently sat down with Sean’s mom to talk about their work and his legacy.

“There’s always just this really big hole. As time passes, it really doesn’t get easier. It just gets worse,” says mom, Denise Morency Gannon.

April 12th, 2018, Sean Gannon, a K-9 officer with the Yarmouth Police Department, was serving a search warrant at a Barnstable home. When he went to clear the attic, a suspect was lying in wait. Sean and his dog, Nero, were both shot.

Gannon remembered the phone call she got while on vacation with her husband in Florida.

“I saw that I had a voicemail and so did Pat. And so, we pick up our phones and there we could hear Dara’s voice. Sean’s been hurt. You have to come home.”

They scrambled to make calls and learned Sean was gone.

“This is the first time that I’ve been public with this,” Gannon said of the moment she first learned her son was dead. “I felt a complete calm come over me. It wasn’t shock. It wasn’t numbness or trauma. I know it wasn’t. I know it was from God. It was God’s grace. I said, ‘Sean, I need to know where you are right now. Tell me where you are and if you’re okay.’ Not a millimeter went by and just by this side of me, I hear ‘Mum,’ and I knew it was him because he called me Mum, ‘I’m fine. I’m standing here in Heaven. I’m with Jesus.’”

Gannon says in the weeks, months and now years since Sean was killed, there have been ups and downs for her family. Celebrations and holidays without him. But through their grief, the family has found a consistent source of strength, their work.

And they’re not done yet.

“I won’t be done until I’m dead. No, no,” Gannon said.

First came the school playground named in honor of Sean in his hometown of New Bedford.

There are police academy scholarships in his name. Then came Nero’s Law allowing police dogs injured in the line of duty to be rushed to emergency animal hospitals via ambulance.

“I would go on a radio show or write to legislators, or I would put it up on my Facebook page,” Gannon said.

This year Gannon was there when Governor Charlie Baker signed it into law.

Now Gannon wants to improve police protections so that K-9 officers would be required to wear certain ballistic protections, including a helmet and vest. She also wants to outfit canines with cameras.

“If Nero had been wearing a camera and could see beyond that film that Sean pulled back, Sean may still be alive,” she said. “If Sean had had a helmet, Sean might still be alive.”

And despite all she’s lost, Gannon wants this to be her son’s legacy.

“Let’s leave a legacy of kindness behind us,” Gannon said.

Kindness that Denise says Sean, who was always smiling, dedicating time to children, and pulling for the underdog showed everyone.

“Yes, let’s do our jobs. And, when we have to arrest someone. Let’s do it. But let’s do it with some kindness,” she said.

Saturday, Denise Morency Gannon will be the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser for the Brotherhood for the Fallen. They send Boston area officers to every funeral for police officers murdered in the line of duty nationwide. Gannon says that night she will talk about the “presence of kindness” in honor of her son.

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