NC bill honoring fallen cop passed into law
The law increases the punishment for people who assault law enforcement officers with a gun
By Joyce Orlando|
Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.
RALEIGH, NC — Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law last week a bill named after fallen Shelby Police Officer Tim Brackeen that increases the punishment for people who assault law enforcement officers with a gun.
"North Carolina needed stronger penalties to protect brave men and women like Officer Brackeen who risk their own lives to keep us safe," said N.C. House Speaker and Cleveland County Rep. Tim Moore after the bill was signed into law.
The new law will increase the penalty for assaulting a law enforcement, probation, parole or corrections officer with a firearm from a Class E to a Class D felony, which comes with a minimum of 38 months in prison for those convicted.
Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford received a call from Cooper letting him know it had been signed.
"The bill overall is a very positive message from the General Assembly that there is a price to pay for someone that assaults a law enforcement officer," Ledford said.
Brackeen was shot and killed in September 2016 while trying to serve outstanding warrants on Irving Lucien Fenner Jr. The two reportedly struggled, and Brackeen was shot in the chest. Fenner awaits trial on murder and related charges in Brackeen's slaying.
Cleveland County also had another officer-involved shooting when Cleveland County Sheriff's Deputy Tim Sims was shot in the face last August by Dakota Greene.
Greene pleaded guilty to attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced to 21 years and four months in prison in April.
Since Brackeen's death, other officers across the state have died or been seriously injured in shootings. The most recent fatal shooting came in May, when Mooresville K-9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon was fatally shot in a traffic stop.
In Columbus County, State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner was shot and killed last October.
Non-fatal incidents have occurred as recently as Thursday, when Henderson Police Officer Brandon Mitchell was shot while investigating a previous drive-by shooting that killed a 16-year-old and is recovering. In January, both Trooper Daniel Harrell and Raleigh Police Officer Charles Ainsworth were shot and each survived.
Moore and Rep. Kelly Hastings, R-Gaston, announced their intentions to file the legislation last fall when a bridge in Shelby was being dedicated to Brackeen.
The two, along with Republican Reps. Lisa Stone Barnes of Nash County and Carson Smith of Pender County, sponsored the bill, which passed unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly.
"Anyone who uses a firearm to assault public servants who put their lives on the line for the people of North Carolina deserves serious jail time. Strengthening these penalties was overdue" Hastings said.
Under current sentencing structures, it's possible for a first-time offender to get probation after being convicted of assaulting an officer with a firearm.
Ledford hopes this bill makes people think twice before assaulting an officer.
"If it deters someone from assaulting an officer, then it has done its job," he said. "We know all too well what it's like not bring someone back from their tour of duty. We don't want anyone to have to go through that."
The new law takes effect Dec. 1.
©2019 Gaston Gazette, Gastonia, N.C.