(Raleigh) – Legislation to require prison time for assaulting a law enforcement officer with a firearm was filed by state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) on Wednesday in honor of fallen Shelby Police Officer Tim Brackeen, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2017.
House Bill 224 Assault w/Firearm on LEO/Increase Punishment would increase the penalty for assaulting law enforcement officers with a firearm from a Class E felony to a Class D felony, a change that will require jail time for anyone convicted under North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines.
While currently a first-time offender could receive probation for the offense, H.B. 244 would require an active jail sentence upon conviction of a minimum of 38 months.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Nash), Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender), and Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston).
Speaker Moore noted Officer Brackeen was among a number of North Carolina law enforcement officers recently killed or seriously wounded in assaults with a firearm.
“Like so many members of law enforcement who sacrifice their lives and safety for others, Officer Tim Brackeen was a pillar of my community in Cleveland County who was taken from his friends and family senselessly by a violent criminal,” Moore said.
Raleigh police officer Charles Ainsworth was also shot in January 2019 and survived, as did Cleveland County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Sims, who was shot in August 2018.
State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner was tragically shot and killed in Columbus County in October 2018.
An Albemarle, N.C. police officer was shot at with a rifle by a man in a moving vehicle last year. Another driver was hit by a ricocheting bullet in the incident and survived.
In Wilson, N.C., North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Daniel Harrel was shot in the neck and face during a traffic stop in January 2019 and survived.
Speaker Moore said these and other senseless shootings involving law enforcement officers in North Carolina compelled him and his House colleagues to act.
“The fact that someone could assault a law enforcement officer with a firearm in North Carolina and not face jail time upon conviction is unconscionable,” Moore continued.
“Our brave officers deserve stronger protections and deterrents from being assaulted with a gun when they put their lives on the line in service to our communities.”
Freshman Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender), a 16-year veteran of the Pender County Sheriff’s Office, is a co-sponsor of the bill and said the legislature should move swiftly to require jail time for assaulting a member of law enforcement with a gun.
“This General Assembly stands with law enforcement,” Smith said. “It is our duty as lawmakers to protect those officers with the same vigilance they protect us.”
“We owe it to the men and women who keep us safe to do the same for them.”
Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston), who also represents parts of Cleveland County where Officer Tim Brackeen served, said stiffer penalties for assaulting law enforcement with a firearm would protect those officers.
“Too many law enforcement officers are being wantonly targeted by dangerous criminals,” Hastings said. “There is no question that using a firearm to threaten or harm an officer of the law should carry mandatory jail time.”
Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Nash), a freshman House member, said she co-sponsored the legislation to protect police officers who are “everyday people – moms and dads.”
“When Trooper Harrell was shot in January it was right on the Nash County line and I heard an immediate outcry for justice from my community,” said Barnes.
“Our police officers are everyday people – moms and dads – who demonstrate extraordinary bravery just by walking out the door and going to work. Any criminal who threatens them with a firearm deserves mandatory jail time.”