Raleigh, N.C. – Legislation to require jail time for criminals convicted of assaulting law enforcement officers with a firearm was approved by the North Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday in honor of fallen Shelby Police Officer Tim Brackeen and his family.
House Bill 224 Assault w/Firearm on LEO/Increase Punishment increases the applicable penalty from a Class E felony to a Class D felony, a reform that requires prison time for anyone convicted of the crime under North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines.
The bill is sponsored by state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Nash), Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender), and Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston).
Speaker Moore promised to file and pass the legislation last year at a bridge dedication honoring Shelby Police Officer Tim Brackeen, who was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“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.
“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.”
Current law allows probation for some offenders who assault a law enforcement officer with a firearm, but H.B. 244 would require a minimum of 38 months in jail upon conviction.
Rep. Hastings, who represents parts of Cleveland County where Officer Brackeen served, noted Cleveland County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Sims was also recently shot and survived in August of 2018.
“We recently had another Cleveland County officer who was shot, and Tim Sims was a big part of the bill,” Hastings said Wednesday. “It’s an honor to be here before you and support this.”
Speaker Moore addressed the state House of Representatives from his floor seat during debate as a primary sponsor of the legislation.
“I think anyone who assaults our law enforcement officers with a firearm should go to prison for some period of time,” Moore said. “We have to let our men and women in blue know we have their backs, and we have to let persons who assault law enforcement officers know they will spend time in jail for doing so.”
“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.”
The family of Officer Brackeen joined Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford in the state House of Representatives for the vote on Wednesday.
State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner was also tragically shot and killed in Columbus County in October 2018.
Raleigh police officer Charles Ainsworth was shot in January 2019 and survived, as did Cleveland County Sheriff’s Deputy Tim Sims, who was shot in August 2018.
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.”
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.
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.”
House Bill 224 Assault w/Firearm on LEO/Increase Punishment now goes to the North Carolina Senate for consideration.