Tillis notes support for increased federal penalties following Dallas shooting

Published 3:35 pm Friday, July 8, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — Following a mass shooting in Dallas that took the lives of five police officers, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., emphasized his support for a measure that would punish perpetrators of similar incidents.

By Friday afternoon, five police officers were confirmed dead in downtown Dallas shooting that occurred Thursday evening. Seven others, including two civilians, were injured. The Associated Press reported that police killed the suspect by using a robot to deliver a bomb.

In a prepared statement issued Friday, Tillis said it’s important to support law enforcement officers.

He also mentioned a pending piece of legislation called the “Thin Blue Line Act,” which would increase penalties for people who kill or attempt to kill first responders. The list of sponsors and cosponsors is entirely composed of Republicans, including Tillis. In his statement, Tillis mentioned the bill as a way to support law enforcement officers.

More specifically, the bill supported by Tillis would amend the federal criminal code to make the murder or attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, firefighter or other first responder an aggravating factor for juries that are considering the death penalty.

“Brave men and women put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and our federal laws should support them and give them the protections they need and deserve,” Tillis said.

Law enforcement officers are described in the bill as those who are authorized to “engage in or supervise the detention, investigation, prosecution or incarceration of any person for any criminal violation” and those who are authorized to apprehend or arrest anyone for a criminal violation.

The aggravating factor would apply when the murder occurs while a first responder is at work or because of the first responder’s job status.

After it was first introduced in 2015, the bill received support from the National Sheriffs’ Association. At the time, the organization noted that the death penalty can be considered when a federal law enforcement officer is murdered. The death penalty cannot be considered for state or local law enforcement officers.

“It is an important recognition that the targeting of state and local law enforcement officers and firefighters is equally as abhorrent in the eyes of the law,” said Executive Director Jonathan F. Thompson at the time.

In his statement that followed the Dallas mass murder, Tillis stressed the vital role of law enforcement in North Carolina’s communities.

“I am proud of North Carolina’s law enforcement community and grateful for the brave men and women in blue who risk their lives every single day to patrol our streets, protect our communities, and keep our families safe,” Tillis said. “One of the great privileges I’ve had as North Carolina’s senator is visiting police stations across the state and personally thanking our officers for the selfless risks and sacrifices they make for all North Carolinians. Wearing the blue uniform is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs in America.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.