Discussion of death penalty for cop killers reemerges after Mass. LEO's slaying
Officer Michael Chesna is one of three Massachusetts LEOs shot and killed in the line of duty within the last 26 months, Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis Jr. said
By Scott J. Croteau
MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.
WEYMOUTH, Mass. — In the wake of Weymouth Police Sgt. Michael Chesna's killing, the subject of whether the death penalty should be back on the books in Massachusetts has once again emerged with Gov. Charlie Baker stating he believes the death penalty should apply to cop-killers.
Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis Jr. is one of the police chiefs in Massachusetts who supports the death penalty for anyone who killed an officer.
"This is ridiculous," Sluckis said. "You're talking three officers that all have been killed and shot to death in the line of duty within 26 months."
Sluckis had an officer killed in the line of duty in 2016. Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino was fatally shot by Jorge Zambrano during a traffic stop on May 22, 2016.
He has joined Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson and Woburn Police Chief Robert Ferullo, who also believe the death penalty should apply to cop-killers.
Yarmouth Police Sgt. Sean Gannon was killed serving a warrant on Cape Cod this year. Woburn Police Officer Jack Maguire was fatally shot by a robbery suspect in 2010.
The death penalty ended in Massachusetts in 1984, although there have been efforts to put it back on the books since then. Proposed legislation has failed. People convicted of federal crimes in Massachusetts can be sentenced to death, as was the case with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombings.
A bill bringing back the death penalty in Massachusetts also failed after the kidnapping and abduction of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley thrust the issue back into the forefront.
Baker said this week he continues to hold the position that the death penalty should apply to anyone who kills a police officer.
Earlier this year, Baker signed a bill that included a new mandatory minimum sentence for assault and battery on a police officer causing serious bodily injury.
Getting support from legislators is difficult, said Mark Leahy, the retired Northborough Police Chief who is now the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
Having a bill filed to bring back the death penalty is among laundry list of items the association is considering, he said.
A sampling of whether lawmakers would support such a bill showed "it wasn't going to happen," Leahy said.
"Who knows, maybe after this the discussion will continue? There was no appetite for it though," he said. "We don't want to do it for window dressing. We're either going to do it because we think it has a good chance of succeeding or not. We realized the current environment showed it was not."
Chesna was fatally shot Sunday after responding to a call for an erratic driver in Weymouth. Emanuel Lopes is accused of shooting Chesna with the officer's firearm.
Sluckis said he continues to believe judges should not have lifetime appointments. Judges should be reviewed every five years, he said.
The men involved in the killings of Tarentino and Gannon both were career criminals. A judge referenced Zambrano's violent history toward police three months before the killing of Tarentino. The judge could have revoked Zambrano's bail, but did not.
The man accused of killing Gannon had more than 100 offenses on his criminal record. Gannon's mother released a statement after Chesna's killing.
"Our hearts are broken once again for what can never be justified - the senseless violence that continues to occur because legislators and the court system fail to adequately support Law Enforcement and the innocent public by allowing dangerous criminals to remain in society," said Denise Gannon.
Records show Lopes was placed on $500 cash bail in an October drug case in Weymouth. He was out on pretrial probation conditions when authorities say he killed Chesna and Adams.
Sluckis wants more information about the case before determining if another judge should be "removed from the bench."
Once news of Chesna's shooting broke, Sluckis said he messaged Trish Tarentino and spoke with Frederickson.
Sluckis also wants a piece of legislation, currently still with State Rep. Theodore C. Speliotis' committee, to be passed. It would allow officers and public safety personnel involved in traumatic events to seek support services without having to notify their supervisors.
The bill wouldn't cost taxpayers any money, Sluckis said.
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