RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - During a Thursday morning news conference, North Carolina House Representative Brenden Jones (R-Columbus County) had a message for law enforcement as he introduced a bill called Conner’s Law: We have your back.
The bill would increase the penalty for those who assault an officer with a firearm, and would double the death benefit for families of officers murdered. The bill is in honor of Jones’ friend and fallen North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Columbus County in October 2018.
Conner’s wife and parents, along with troopers from the Highway Patrol, stood alongside lawmakers as Jones introduced the bill.
“We’re trying to send a very clear message to criminals that if you go after our officers, we’re going after you,” Jones said.
The bill would change the penalty from a class E felony to class D for assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer, probation officer, or parole officer. This would increase jail time from 15 to 63 months to 38 to 160 months. It would also require jail time for anyone convicted under North Carolina sentencing laws.
“This happens far too often in North Carolina and across the country and enough is enough,” Jones said, referring to Conner’s death. “This shows we have zero tolerance for anyone who harms one of our officers.”
It would also double the death benefit for the family of fallen officers to $100,000.
According to Jones, the idea for the bill came to light shortly after Conner’s murder. He said he and the State Highway Patrol thought they had to do something to help families of murdered officers.
“It’s a way to honor my friend, our trooper, our comrade,” he said. “Just anything we can do as a legacy for him, that this will be something for his children, that will be in the books forever — Conner’s Law — that Braxson and Briley (Conner’s son and daughter, respectively) can go back and see how their dad was honored and see what an awesome trooper and awesome man and dedicated father he was.”
Jones, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County), Rep. John Bell (R-Greene County), and Rep. Kelly Hastings (R-Cleveland County) are the primary sponsors of the bill.
Moore was expected to read the bill into the House Thursday. It will then head to committees where Jones expects bipartisan support and said it should move “swiftly.”
The bill will then go to the House floor for a vote, and Jones said he expects unanimous approval. Gov. Roy Cooper will possibly sign it into law. Jones said he doesn’t see any reason why Cooper wouldn’t sign it into law.