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Federal crime to harm law enforcement proposed

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Federal criminal charges could be filed for knowingly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a law enforcement officer under a proposal from a North Carolina congressman.

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is joined by powerful West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and nine Republicans in pushing for stronger protection of lawmen. Tillis spoke on the chamber floor last week about the deaths of four in the line of duty on April 29 a mere 20 to 30 minutes from his home.

“They were just showing up to do their job,” Tillis told his colleagues. “It was the deadliest attack on law enforcement our nation has seen in nearly a decade.

“We’ll be forever grateful for their courage, their service and their ultimate sacrifice.”

Tommy Weeks Jr., a U.S. marshal from Mooresville; Joshua Eyer, lawman with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police; and Sam Poloche and Alden Elliott, each with the state Department of Adult Correction, were killed while serving an arrest warrant for possession of a firearm by a felon.

Terry Clark Hughes Jr., 39, the fugitive they sought, was killed. An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 40-caliber handgun and ammunition were found. The rifle has capability to penetrate body armor.

“Those who commit senseless acts of violence against law enforcement officers must be held accountable for their actions,” Tillis said in a release, “which is why I am proud to reintroduce this legislation that creates federal penalties for criminals who target law enforcement.”

Prosecutors at all levels have long known and advocated that while local or state prisons may have limited populations and boundaries, federal prisons are available throughout the nation. Opportunities to prosecute accordingly are welcomed when it comes to keeping the worst of suspects off the streets.

The Protect and Serve Act, as the proposal is known, would include up to 10 years of federal prison for knowingly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to a law enforcement officer. And, an offender could receive a life sentence if a death results from the offense, or the offense includes kidnapping, attempted kidnapping or attempted murder.

The Fraternal Order of Police, Sergeant Benevolent Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Narcotic Officers’ Associations’ Coalition, and the National Association of Police Organization all support the legislation. In addition to Manchin, Tillis was joined in bringing the legislation by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Susan Collins of Maine and Steve Daines of Montana.

In calendar year 2023, the National Fraternal Order of Police say 378 officers were killed in the line of duty. Forty-six were by gunfire. There were 115 ambush-style attacks on lawmen, resulting in 138 officers shot and 20 deaths.

Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in a release, “NAPO is calling on Congress to take up and pass the Protect and Serve Act to demonstrate that the killing or the attempted killing of our nation’s law enforcement officers is unacceptable and those who commit these heinous crimes must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”