Cape Fear

Yarmouth's top cop Frank Frederickson gained wide renown for his leadership in the wake of the slaying of one of his officers. But almost no one knows the story of the woman whose bravery helped him catch a serial rapist—and set him on a path to greatness.

Photo by Cindygoff/Getty Images.

It was a gray and blustery afternoon on April 12, 2018, and Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson was making his way back to Cape Cod from a law-enforcement meeting in Boston. He had just settled into the tedium of the drive and the seemingly endless vista of pine trees along the mid-Cape highway as he neared the exit for Marstons Mills when an alert blared over his police radio.

“Officer down! Officer down! Shots fired.”

Did I just hear that? Frederickson thought to himself. His mind immediately flashed to Corey, his son from his first marriage, who is a police officer in Barnstable and a member of the Cape Cod Regional Law Enforcement Council SWAT team. The chief routinely monitored Barnstable’s police frequency to check up on his son. Soon after, Frederickson recognized the voices of Yarmouth police officers calling in over the radio, and that was when he knew: It wasn’t his son, but it was one of his own. For a man who treats his officers like his extended family, it cut almost as close to home.

Frederickson fumbled to answer a call from an officer at the scene. He learned the shooting victim was 32-year-old Yarmouth Police Sergeant Sean Gannon, a ruggedly handsome New Bedford native and K-9 officer. He’d been struck in the head by a bullet at a home in a quiet Cape Cod neighborhood while searching for 29-year-old Thomas Latanowich, a career criminal wanted for probation violation. “Sean was shot in the face,” the officer told him. “We don’t know how bad it is.” Trying to pull himself together, the chief felt his heart and mind racing. A gunshot wound to the face can mean many things, he told himself. Sean may still be alive. He may be okay.

Frederickson flipped on his siren and sped toward Cape Cod Hospital. He pulled into the parking lot with lights flashing and parked his cruiser. As he strode into the emergency room, the scene was eerily quiet. Seconds later, paramedics wheeled Gannon’s stretcher into the ER. Gannon’s eyes were closed, and his body was still. Frederickson touched his boot and knew he was gone.

The enormity of the tragedy hit Frederickson immediately. He thought about Gannon and his family, especially his young wife, Dara, whom Gannon had married just a couple of years earlier. Frederickson thought about his own officers, the men and women of the Yarmouth Police Department who would lean on him for support and look to him for leadership. Compounding the heartbreak was the fact that Gannon’s K-9 dog, Nero, a two-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, had also been shot in the face and neck and was now clinging to life. “It’s all on me; I have to do this for everyone,” Frederickson said to himself. “I have to lead my department. There’s nobody else.”

The chief wondered if he had the will to guide his department through this tragedy. He braced himself for what was ahead, the trauma everyone on his force would suffer. He knew he’d have to dig deep—all the way back to the summer of 1988—and revisit the pain of the first major test he ever faced as a police officer to have any chance of helping his people through one of the darkest times in the department’s history.

Michelle Linn and her three friends Vicky, Chris, and Paul had rented a small room for Memorial Day weekend at the Snug Harbour Motor Lodge in Yarmouth. To Linn, the Cape was paradise. She’d grown up in Rutland on her family farm but spent her childhood summers on the Cape. Now 23, she still couldn’t imagine a more appropriate way to kick off the summer of 1988 than spending the weekend there with her three close friends.

The motel didn’t look like much, and the room, with its blood-orange shag rug, was certainly nothing to write home about, but the location could not have been better. It was right in the middle of bar-hopping territory, with Guido Murphy’s and Pufferbellies nearby in Hyannis. The Mill Hill Club and Rascals were a short distance in the other direction along busy Route 28, the main tourist drag of motels, mini-golf courses, ice cream shops, and kitschy souvenir outlets that sold everything from rope bracelets to Day-Glo tank tops.

After a quick dinner on Saturday evening, the foursome drove into Hyannis to try out Guido Murphy’s nightclub. A long line snaked along the building as twentysomethings waited for the bouncers wearing Kelly-green polo shirts to look over their IDs and let them inside. When they made it to the head of the line and into the club, the music was thumping and the air was scented with Drakkar and Polo cologne. But Linn didn’t feel like dancing. “Let’s go to Pufferbellies,” she suggested to her friends. “It’s supposed to be fun, and it’s closer to the motel.”

“I’m not feeling too good. I think I’m just gonna go back to the room,” Paul replied. “I’ll drop you guys off, though, and swing by to pick you up after last call.”

Paul drove Linn, Vicky, and Chris to Pufferbellies, which was dark and cavernous. Linn hadn’t been drinking that night and she was getting tired, so she told Vicky she didn’t think she could make it until last call.

“But Paul is going to come back and get us,” Vicky reminded her.

“Let’s all walk back to the motel—it’s not far from here,” Linn urged. “We’ll flag down Paul if we pass him.”

The women walked together across the dark parking lot and out onto the brightly lit street.

It was after 12 a.m., but Route 28 was as busy as ever as throngs of young people were pouring out of the bars and heading back to their small motel rooms to party some more.

They never did see Paul before making it all the way back to the Snug Harbour. But when they got to their room, it was locked. They must have missed him going to get them.

“I gave Paul the only key,” Linn told her friends. “I’ll go to the front office and see if they have a spare.”

She folded her arms and hugged herself against the cold evening air as she walked to the manager’s office at the front of the motel. She could hear laughter in the distance coming from rooms where after-hours parties were now in full swing. The light was on in the office, but when she walked in, she saw the small space was empty. As Linn turned around to leave, she noticed a dark-haired young man with an average build just outside the door. He had his back toward her and she could see a wispy plume from his cigarette in the night air above his head. The man turned.

“Can I help you?”

“Yeah, I’m trying to get in my room, and I don’t have my key,” Linn said with an apologetic smile.

“Oh, I can help you.”

Within a split second, the man lunged forward and grabbed Linn tightly around her right upper arm, almost pulling it from its socket. She let out a scream, but no one could hear her over the loud music playing somewhere near the back of the motel.

They struggled near the entrance of the motel, the attacker seemingly undaunted by the cars passing by. Linn was kicking him, frantically trying to pull herself away, astounded she couldn’t break free. She considered herself to be a strong woman thanks to the countless jugs of water she lugged from the house to the barn to feed livestock on the family farm; she’d even beaten all the boys at arm wrestling back in the eighth grade. But she was no match for her attacker, who continued to drag Linn toward a wooded area that divided the Snug Harbour from the motel next door. “I want your underwear,” the man said while grabbing her between the legs.

“If you say anything, I will kill you. I have a gun.”

With tremendous force, the man threw Linn into a large retaining wall in the woods. She had never before felt such excruciating pain. She saw stars and felt on the verge of slipping into unconsciousness. She opened her mouth to try to scream, but she wasn’t sure if any noise was coming out. Before she gave up completely, she had one last card to play: She tried to appeal to his humanity. “You don’t have to do this,” she said, trembling. “Are you having problems with your girlfriend? Please, please, this is not the way to solve them.”

The man was not listening. Instead, he forced her pants down.

Linn had reached a moment when she realized there was nothing else she could do. She knew that she would let herself be raped with the hope that her attacker would allow her to live. Right then and there she made a vow to herself: I’m never going to tell anyone what happened. For the next 10 minutes in the wooded area just beyond the motel, the man forced himself on her while she silently prayed. When he was done, she hoped he’d just leave her there in the bushes, blurry-eyed and disheveled with sticks and leaves in her matted hair. But the rapist had other ideas.

“I want to keep you,” he told her. “I want to take you to my room and do this again.”

He ordered Linn to get dressed. She fumbled around in a daze trying to pull on her jeans. Once again, she felt his hand on her arm. This time, the rapist was yanking her by the wrist, leading her out of woods toward the bright streetlights of Route 28 several yards ahead. As they reached the sidewalk and the rapist started pulling her across the street, Linn noticed a black Monte Carlo heading in their direction and knew this was her only chance. As the driver slowed down to let them cross, she flung herself onto the car’s hood and screamed as loud as she could. The passenger, another twentysomething just leaving the bars, jumped out and reached for Linn, but the rapist still had her in a death clutch. As the Good Samaritan passenger pulled Linn one way and her attacker pulled the other, she was caught in a desperate tug of war for survival. The driver of the Monte Carlo jumped out to help his friend and the rapist finally let go and took off running back down the street toward Hyannis.

“Are you okay?” one of the men asked as they helped Linn into the car.

She didn’t answer. All she could do was sob.

“We gotta go after that guy!” the driver declared as he spun his car around.

“No, please no!” Linn screamed. “I just want to get out of here.”

Hearing the terror in the young woman’s voice, the driver gave up the chase.

“Do you know where you are?” he asked her. “Where are you staying?”

Linn pointed toward the Snug Harbour, where her friends were now in the road calling out her name.

The two men escorted Linn gently out of the car and into Vicky’s arms. “You’ve been raped, haven’t you?” the friend whispered in Linn’s ear.

She didn’t answer. All she wanted was to climb into a hot shower and scrub the horror off her body. Paul returned to the room and stood guard by the bathroom door. He could hear her sobbing under the shower.

“You need to go to the police,” Paul told her gently. “You need to report this.”

“No. You can’t tell anyone about this,” Linn demanded. “No one can ever know this happened.”

It was the same mantra she’d been telling herself since the rapist slammed her body against the retaining wall—and the only way she could feel some control over an episode that had so wholly stripped her of it. “You’ll help other people if you report it,” Paul pleaded. “This guy is gonna do it again.”

That was all Linn needed to hear to change her mind. Full of newfound resolve, she turned the shower nozzle off, wiped away her tears, and got dressed.

Tragedy struck the Yarmouth Police Department, led by Chief Frank Frederickson, when one of its officers was killed in 2018. / Photo by Mona Miri

Frank Frederickson was 30 years old and a newly minted detective with the Yarmouth Police Department when the phone woke him early in the morning on Sunday, May 29, 1988. He was married with a child on the way, but he was also wed to his job. As the only officer in his department trained to investigate sexual-assault cases, he received orders to meet Linn at the station. The young woman looked like a walking crime scene. Despite taking a shower, Linn still had some debris in her hair and a look of fear on her face that spoke to the horrific experience she had just endured.

Oh my God, this is really happening, he thought to himself. And I have to investigate this case alone? He had looked into assault allegations before, usually of the “he said/she said” variety, but they were nothing like this. The challenge and responsibility weighed heavily on the young detective.

At first, Linn did not want to talk to Frederickson. She did not want to see or be near any man after her attack. She was freaked out by the simple fact that Paul’s shirt was the same shade of blue as the one her assailant had worn. Linn kept asking for a female police officer, but the department didn’t have one at the time. She was stuck with Frederickson.

Frederickson brought her into a cluttered, small office and offered her a chair. Linn’s hip was badly bruised, and it was uncomfortable for her to sit in the chair opposite the detective, but she told him her story, her voice trembling throughout, while he diligently took notes. A series of images was fresh in her mind: her attacker smoking a cigarette with his back toward her, him grabbing her wrist, her body colliding with the retaining wall. “He told me that he had a gun and that he’d kill me if I tried to run away,” she told Frederickson.

Frederickson was blue-eyed with fair hair, and though he was only 30, he seemed older to her. He was calm and measured. He spoke softly, didn’t judge her, and projected a quiet confidence. Linn began to relax a bit in his presence. “I don’t have my underwear,” she told him. “They’ve got to be there in the woods where it happened.”

Later that morning, the young detective had Linn sit down with a sketch artist and try to describe her attacker. She remembered his body and mannerisms but blanked on her rapist’s face. The end result was a composite sketch that looked like a young Tom Brady.

She was too traumatized to drive, so afterward Vicky drove Linn’s car back to her parents’ farm in Rutland. They sat together in the long driveway as Linn took deep breaths and tried to compose herself so she could tell her parents. As she entered the house, her parents were sitting around the kitchen table with Linn’s two younger sisters and two younger brothers. Linn stared blankly at them, unable to summon any words.

“Oh God, what happened to you?” her mother asked.

Linn broke down sobbing. Her mother gently reached for her hand and guided her to the privacy of a bathroom, where her daughter told her she had been raped just hours before.

While shock, sadness, and anger filled her home in Rutland, Frederickson began searching for evidence at the Snug Harbour. The next day when the phone rang, Linn felt comforted by Frank’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Did you find my underwear?” Linn asked.

“We didn’t find it,” he told her.

“What do you mean? It’s got to be there,” she said frantically. “It’s got to be there.”

The notion that her underwear was missing struck her like a sledgehammer to the chest. Linn had been forced to take it off—that she remembered. The pair was green with white polka dots, purchased just the week before.

Did my attacker take them as a souvenir?  Linn asked herself, caught somewhere between shock and revulsion at the thought of it.

After the attack, she took to sleeping in her brother’s bedroom with a knife under her pillow and her brother close by with a hunting rifle. It didn’t matter that she was more than 100 miles away from the scene of the crime. Just the knowledge that her attacker was still out there, somewhere, terrified her.

A composite sketch of the rapist. / Photo courtesy of Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office

Frederickson delivered a general broadcast to all of Cape Cod law enforcement with details of Linn’s attack and a description of the rapist. “I need to find this guy,” Frederickson told his colleagues.

That was no easy task. It was 1988; DNA analysis was practically unheard of and there was no technology to share communications instantly far and wide. Police work was slow and arduous, and Frederickson had to rely on his instincts. Meanwhile, as he tirelessly worked Linn’s case, reports of more rapes on the Cape began coming in.

On the evening of June 13, 1988, a man approached a blond woman outside a motel on Main Street in Hyannis. “Can you please move your car?” he asked her.

She nodded, assuming that he worked there. As the woman fetched her keys, he grabbed her and dragged her into some nearby bushes and raped her before disappearing into the night.

About a month later, on July 10, an intoxicated young woman climbed into a taxi in front of a White Hen Pantry. As the driver pulled away from the curb, a man with dark hair emerged and flagged down the vehicle. “You can drop her off here,” he said with a smile. “I’m her brother, and I’ll make sure she gets home safely.”

The man then opened the back door of the taxi and pulled her out. The cabbie continued down the street while the man dragged the woman across the street and raped her. The victim was left bruised and dazed.

A few weeks later, on August 6, a young woman walked alone down Scudder Avenue in Hyannis Port, just a stone’s throw from the Kennedy compound. The next thing she knew, she was thrown to the ground. The attacker kept her in a tight chokehold. He pulled her into the bushes, raped her, and bit her breast.

When Frederickson shared the details of his case with investigators from the Barnstable Police Department, they told him about the string of sexual assaults that were occurring with frightening frequency on the Cape. There was one common denominator in the cases: The victims were missing their underwear. The detective now knew that Linn’s attack was no isolated incident—Cape Cod had a serial rapist on the loose.

Linn returned to the Cape a few days later, accompanied by her father, George, a big, John Wayne type who was now demanding justice for his daughter. Her dad wanted to look into the eyes of the detective assigned to his daughter’s case to see if he had the mettle for such a difficult job.

“You’d better get this guy,” the father told Frederickson.

Meanwhile, Frederickson thought he got a break in the case when an officer identified a man running down Route 28 toward Hyannis on the night that Linn was attacked. This guy had a criminal record, but a search warrant of his home turned up nothing. When Frederickson showed his photo along with a series of mug shots to Linn for examination, she pointed to the suspect. “It’s definitely not that guy,” she told the detective.

Frederickson was deflated. He had felt he was close to solving the case, the biggest of his career so far, but Linn was adamant that the man was not her attacker. Still, it served as a valuable lesson for the young detective, teaching him not to be too focused on one suspect, because that can throw even the best detective off the trail. He also learned to listen to the victim. “Michelle taught me to see the case through her eyes,” he says.

As the two worked together, Linn continued to describe how strong her attacker was. Does this mean he works out? Frederickson asked himself. Does he work with his hands? He continued to rummage through boxes of police photos at other departments on the Cape but didn’t make any progress. We’re not gonna find him here in boxes of photos, Frederickson thought in frustration. We need to catch him on his own hunting ground. The detective convinced Linn to return to the Cape one more time and help the police canvass the nightclubs.

“He’s gonna strike again and again,” Frederickson told her. “I trust you when you say that you’ll know it’s him when you see him again. I’m counting on that.”

Normally, a rape victim would only be called upon to identify his or her attacker from a physical lineup or a group of photos. Frederickson was enlisting Linn to join him on the front lines of the investigation, in the center of the hunt.

At first a frightened young woman who originally wanted no one to know what had happened to her, with Frederickson’s help, Linn had become a determined participant in the quest to find her attacker. Thoughts of him were so all-consuming that she found herself unable to focus on her work. She was obsessed with finding him.

That made two of them. As the summer wore on, Frederickson only grew more desperate to catch the rapist, lest he slip through the detective’s net after all the popular local bars closed for the season.

Needing to attend to his pregnant wife at home, Frederickson could not accompany Linn, but he gave her a pep talk before she entered the Mill Hill Club with an undercover officer by her side. Hearing the music and the laughter, she was immediately transported back to that fateful weekend in May. She recognized a few friends, who approached her to make small talk while she scanned the crowded bar. Linn whispered to the police officer that one man looked frighteningly familiar to her. The officer quietly approached the dark-haired man, took him outside, and questioned him for several minutes. He wasn’t the rapist, as it turned out, and Linn felt sick to her stomach that she had nearly accused the wrong person. Frederickson asked her to give it one more try the next night. He told her that this time he’d go with her and make sure she was safe.

“I will be with you the whole time,” he told Linn. “If you spot him, we’ll have him surrounded quickly.”

They took their search into Hyannis, where some of the attacks had occurred in previous weeks. They were joined by two investigators from Barnstable, who fanned out and patrolled the east end of Main Street while Frederickson and Linn took the west end and the area’s most popular spot, Guido Murphy’s.

The detective concealed his police radio so they could pose as friends as they entered the bar. Together they moved between rooms where people were dancing and drinking beer and cocktails. Linn looked closely at the faces of every man they passed but recognized no one, so they left the bar. Linn felt frustrated but determined. “I will know him when I see him,” she insisted.

Frederickson nodded in agreement while trying to stand inconspicuously outside of the bar. He knew that maybe the trick wasn’t to track his suspect, but to wait patiently, like a deer hunter, for the suspect to come to him.

Moments later, when he looked at Linn and saw her shaking, he knew something wasn’t right. He immediately recognized the signs of trauma. Linn stared straight ahead at a man who was standing less than 10 feet away. He had his back toward them and was smoking.

“That’s him,” she told Frederickson. “I know that’s him.”

“It doesn’t look like him,” the detective observed, referring back to the composite sketch. “Are you sure?”

Linn did not waver. “I’m positive.”

As the suspect began walking east toward the center of Main Street, the detective radioed his counterparts from Barnstable PD. “We’ve identified the suspect and he’s coming your way.”

Frederickson and Linn followed the man, making sure they stayed a few paces behind. They watched as a couple of teenagers approached him outside a liquor store. The man slipped inside, bought a case of beer for the teens, and returned to his car, a gold Cadillac that was parked in an alley behind the store. The detectives from Barnstable caught up with Frederickson, and they all watched the man approach the vehicle.

“One of the victims mentioned a gold Cadillac,” one of the investigators said.

Bingo, Frederickson thought. They approached the suspect while Linn stayed behind.

“We’d like to ask you a few questions,” a detective from Barnstable said.

The man appeared calm. He probably figured that he’d just been caught buying beer for minors. It was a hassle for sure, but nothing major.

“Can you come to the station with us?” the detective continued. “Shouldn’t take long. You can even drive your own car.”

The suspect agreed and drove to the Barnstable police station. The Barnstable detectives led the way with Frederickson following close behind.

The dark-haired man parked the gold Cadillac and walked breezily into the station to where Linn was waiting in the lobby. He stared into her eyes.

Before being questioned, the man was allowed to use the telephone in the booking room. He called his father, who lived in East Falmouth.

“I’m getting questioned,” the suspect said. “No, it’s not about rape.”

The dark-haired man’s name was John Flower and he was 27 years old. What Frederickson did not know at the time was that Flower, who worked as a laborer for a Hyannis building-supply company, was under indictment for a 1987 sexual assault outside Yesterdays, a party hot spot in Falmouth Heights. In that case, he had grabbed a woman outside and carried her down the street, where he threw the victim down and pulled her clothes off.

As Linn was led to another room where she was asked to identify Flower’s photo, Frederickson tried to keep the suspect engaged in small talk. Flower was not charged yet with a crime, so the detective needed to keep the conversation light.

But the suspect’s calm demeanor was eroding quickly.

“What do you do for work?” he asked Flower.

“When can I get outta here?” the man replied, avoiding the question.

“How’s your summer been so far?” Frederickson continued in a calm tone.

“I need to get out of here,” Flower shouted back.

At that moment, Flower jumped to his feet and pushed through the door. Frederickson leapt from the table and chased after him, with other officers following close behind. Flower rushed through the station out to the parking lot and jumped into his car. Two cops were able to use their cruisers to block his escape route. Seeing he was surrounded by officers, Flower surrendered without a fight.

The next day, a search warrant was executed on the home he shared with his father at 23 Portside Circle in East Falmouth. Officers entered his bedroom, searched his drawers, and turned over his bed. Underneath the mattress they discovered several pairs of women’s underwear. Among them was a green pair with white polka dots.

Frederickson made sure he was inside the courtroom when Linn read her victim-impact statement. He felt that he had to be there for her, and knew that without her courageous decision to come forward and become actively involved in the hunt for her rapist, Flower would have remained free to attack again.

“I don’t think I will ever regain my self-confidence and carefree attitude,” Linn said aloud in court. “I now suspect every stranger I see with wanting to hurt me…to this day I sleep with a knife beneath my mattress. I have spent many hours in therapy trying to get over these fears, but somehow I think they will always be with me.”

Flower ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years.

Through years of therapy, Linn learned to trust again. She got married and eventually had two children, but she never forgot Frederickson. Through the Victim Witness Program, Frederickson occasionally reached out to inform her about Flower’s parole hearings, and they sometimes exchanged Christmas cards.

Long after they stopped discussing the events of that horrible night in 1988, they still had things to talk about. By the early 2000s, both divorced, they began talking on the phone about the challenges of co-parenting, as both had two children with their former spouses. Linn, who was living in Boylston at the time, felt that she could trust Frederickson, just as she had done during that terrifying summer on Cape Cod 16 years before.

They decided to meet for dinner one evening in 2004. Neither went looking for romance. Linn had not seen Frederickson for several years and only remembered that he seemed much older than she was. But if seven years is a lot when you’re 23, it isn’t so much when you’re 39.

As it turns out, it wasn’t just Linn’s view of their age difference that had shifted; it was also the lens through which she looked at him. She no longer saw him as merely the detective who caught her attacker. She began to see him as a man who was placed in her life for a reason. She saw him as her soul mate.

They began dating, fell in love, and two years later, in 2007, they were married on the Cape. “I never thought in a million years that I’d date this guy, marry him, and move to Cape Cod, where that nightmare had happened to me,” Linn says. “When people ask, ‘How did you meet your husband?’ I say, ‘It’s an interesting story.’ People usually think I got pulled over.”

Michelle Linn met Frank Frederickson in 1988 when he was assigned to investigate her rape. / Photo by Mona Miri

As Frederickson had instilled confidence in Linn during their hunt for John Flower, she provided equal support for his career. When he interviewed for the top job at the Yarmouth Police Department, Frederickson felt it was a long shot. “I’m not police-chief material,” he confided to her. “I hate speaking in public.”

Linn understood more than anyone what a leader her husband truly was. Her confidence in him wasn’t born from the idea that she was his loving wife; it grew from the fact that she had been a victim of a case that he labored over virtually alone and eventually solved by believing in and trusting her. “Without Frank’s calm demeanor and care for me as a victim of a terrible, violent attack, I may never have continued to pursue the case, and that means more women would have gotten hurt by this man,” she says.

Linn knew that if ever there came a day that tested her husband’s courage, he would answer the call just like he had done following the attack at the Snug Harbour Motor Lodge decades ago.

That day came when he got the call “officer down.”

On April 14, 2018, hundreds of Cape Cod residents and police officers from across the region gathered at a vigil to remember Sergeant Sean Gannon, whose murder had shaken the community and the department to their core. Linn was there handing out candles with her daughter, while Frederickson, now police chief, took to the podium and offered words of comfort to the fallen officer’s family.

“Your son was remarkable,” he told Sean’s parents. “I can tell you the hurt is within me. I am the chief right now, but I’m crushed inside. But we’re going to move forward. When I personally am hurting, I have to find my way to resolve the hurt so that I can carry on my duties to lead this family through this tragedy, our officers who are shattered, a community that is also shattered, so I vow to be there for all of you.”

Those words weren’t hollow. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Frederickson immediately ensured that not only the officers who were present on the scene, but all officers in the department had peer supporters to help them process the trauma, and that they received as much time as they needed to do so. Not all police chiefs are as sensitive to the need for mental-health support, or to the ways that trauma can affect people not just in the days but years and even decades after an event. “I’m more attuned to that part of the job because of the traumatic experiences I’ve seen—most disturbingly, what happened to Michelle,” he says. And yet he has never before told the story of how he met his wife, nor how she helped make him the kind of police officer he is today.

Since Gannon’s death, Frederickson has used this understanding of trauma to make an impact beyond Yarmouth. He’s called on other police departments to offer peer counseling to first responders recovering from witnessing ordeals like the one that led to Gannon’s murder. He also lobbied for passage of a long-stalled state bill that protects the privacy of first responders who seek mental-health support. It was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in 2019.

Last year, Frederickson was given an award by the Massachusetts Police Association for his leadership in the aftermath of Gannon’s death. His wife beamed with admiration from the crowd. She was the only one who knew how he had really gotten there.