The citizens of Weymouth, Massachusetts were devastated by news of the slaying of Police Sergeant Michael Chesna on Sunday. Chesna, a 42 year old father of two, was the victim of a surprise attack from accused killer Emanuel Lopes, aged 20. Police allege that Lopes beat Chesna over the head with a rock, stole his gun, and fired into Chesna’s head and torso, fatally injuring the officer who later died at a nearby hospital. Also killed in the shocking crime was an elderly woman who was sitting on her screened porch when Lopes opened fired on her with Chesna’s department-issued pistol.
Lopes has a long history with the legal system. According to records, he has struggled with mental illness since high school, when he once attempted to kill himself with a pair of scissors while waiting to see the school’s guidance counselor. Lopes was also due to stand trial for accusations of selling cocaine to minors and resisting arrest; he was out on pretrial probation when the alleged murders took place.
Sadly, this is not the first time that Massachusetts has dealt with the loss of one of its first responders in 2018. Just this April, K9 Officer Sean Gannon of the Yarmouth Police Department was shot in the head and killed while serving a warrant in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
The death of anyone in law enforcement is a tragedy; the murder of someone in law enforcement is a crime that shakes a community, a state, and a country to its core. What makes last week’s killing of Officer Chesna and April’s slaying of Officer Gannon especially outrageous is the fact that both could have been prevented if Massachusetts were tougher on crime.
First, Lopes was released into the general public on pre-trial probation. Why was a man who is bipolar (by his own girlfriend’s admission), has a history of suicidal behavior, and has been homeless released back into society after committing such a serious crime?
Had Lopes posted bail, it would be a different conversation. Instead, Lopes was granted special release status by a judge. Lopes wasn’t even required to wear an ankle bracelet during his probation period; he was only required to submit to random drug tests. Someone who displays such blatant disregard for the law, with a history of mental illness, should not have been roaming the streets. Instead, he should have been roaming a cell block.
In the death of Sean Gannon, the failure of the Massachusetts legal system was even more apparent. Thomas Latanowich, the accused murderer, had been arrested over 100 times. How in the world is someone who has been arrested more than 100 times roaming the streets? In the 100 times Latanowich was arrested, he was convicted of 37 charges, including intimidating a witness, illegal possession of a firearm, DWI, and assault with a dangerous weapon.
Massachusetts is one of many states in the US that has “three-strike laws,” whereby after three convictions for certain felonies, a criminal receives a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Even with five felony convictions, Latanowich was allowed to roam the streets of Massachusetts, due to the way the law was constructed. Only in Massachusetts is a murder like this possible. Perhaps a “thirty-seven strike laws” should be enacted and called “Gannon’s Law.”
Three-strike laws only punish those who commit violent felonies, not all felonies. Still, Latanowich’s long track record of disregard for the law should have landed him an indefinite stay in a prison cell.
The murder of a law enforcement officer is one of the most heinous crimes against society that someone can commit. It strikes at the core of our nation’s quest for liberty, justice for all, and law and order. Those in uniform who give up their lives to preserve law and order are some of the finest men and women among us.
Of course not all crime is preventable, but, in Massachusetts, the murders of two uniformed officers seem to be exceptions. Whether it be a change in the law, impeaching judges, or increasing sentences for repeat offenders, something must change. So long as politicians on Beacon Hill maintain their focus on dismantling the state’s capabilities to harshly sentence criminals who routinely put others’ lives in danger, it remains inevitable that another police officer will fall victim to a violent felon who was put on the street, instead of behind bars.
There are two dead cops, yet zero accountability in Massachusetts. Something has to give.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.