Officer John "Zippo" Frechette stands on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo)
Officer John "Zippo" Frechette stands on Main Street in Brattleboro. (Reformer file photo) (Zachary P. Stephens)
Saturday July 20, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- When John "Zippo" Frechette retired from the Brattleboro Police Department in December 2011 after 25 years, he said he was looking forward to spending more time running marathons, hiking on the Long Trail and donating time to organizations like Special Olympics.

And retirement has been peaceful and fulfilling for the former Brattleboro police officer, who said Friday that while he has missed certain aspects of police work, he was not looking back on his decision to retire.

On Friday morning "Zippo" wasn't wearing his old uniform, but he acted like any police officer would when he helped apprehend an alleged bank robber on Main Street.

Shawn Arguin, 42, was taken into custody just before 10 a.m. after he allegedly tried to rob Key Bank on Main Street.

Frechette was there checking his account when Arguin allegedly attempted to rob the bank.

As Arguin got ready to leave, a bank teller yelled, and Frechette stopped Arguin and got him to the ground until an armed police officer could take over.

"It all happened so fast. Instinct just kicked in," Frechette said. "I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."

The police say officers responded to the Main Street bank for the report of a robbery in progress.

Arguin is being held in Southern State Correctional Facility and is expected to be arraigned Monday in Windham Superior Court.


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Ryan Powers, who works next door to the bank at A Candle in the Night, was outside talking to a UPS driver when he saw a Brattleboro Police Officer drive up and draw a gun.

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn followed closely behind and then two Vermont State Troopers parked in front of the bank, all with guns drawn.

Power said he heard no shots fired, and Arguin was stuffed into a cruiser and whisked away within 15 minutes.

"There was a lot of commotion," Powers said. "It was better than a cup of coffee."

During his 25 years as a Brattleboro Police officer Frechette was involved in some of the most dangerous, and most high profile, cases in town.

He was one of the first officers to respond to the West Village Meeting House in December 2001 when Robert Woodward was shot, and Frechette rode in the ambulance with Woodward, who would later die from the gun shot wounds which were caused by a fellow police officer.

He helped apprehend a suspect in 2010 who had escaped from Meadowview treatment facility and was threatening people with a knife.

Frechette is soft-spoken and humble, and he would have no talk Friday about acting like a hero.

He said he acted purely on instinct, and wonders what might have happened had Arguin been armed.

"They had it covered. He wasn't going anyplace," he said about the strong police presence that converged on the bank Friday morning. "I'm old school. I apprehended him, searched him, and got him to the ground until the officers were able to take over. I just happened to be there at the same time he was."

Brattleboro Police Chief Gene Wrinn said Frechette helped out Friday, but reminded the public about the dangers of getting in the middle of an ongoing incident.

"I applaud retired officer Frechette's willingness to get involved in a crime in progress, but remind others that Mr. Frechette had years of previous law enforcement experience," Wrinn said. "We welcome citizens to become involved by being observant witnesses. Citizens attempting to become involved in incidents where officers are already on scene can complicate the police response and get people injured unnecessarily."

With Arguin in custody Frechette said he had had enough excitement and was looking forward to returning to retirement.

He has plans to run in the Albany Marathon and is looking forward for the weather to break so he can begin training again.

During an in interview in 2011 to talk about his retirement Frechette said he didn't expect to travel too far away from Brattleboro or from the department.

The men and women he worked with would always remain close and he said then that he expected to remain in contact with the department.

"I'm not going too far away," he said at the time. "I'll check in. I'm going to still be around."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.