Va. bill aimed at stiffening penalties for killing law enforcement moves forward

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill to stiffen penalties for those who kill law enforcement officers like Trooper Dowell is moving forward in the General Assembly.

If the bill becomes law, anyone convicted of the capital murder of a law enforcement officer would face the death penalty or spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Widow Jaime Walter is pleading with Virginia lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1501.

“He pulled out a 25 and it was one shot to his head that killed him,” she told lawmakers during a hearing on the bill.

Her husband Special Agent Michael Walter with Virginia State Police was gunned down during a traffic stop in Richmond’s Mosby Court back in May of 2017.

“We need to work together to protect those who protect us every day,” she testified.

Walter was killed in front of his police partner.  

“There was evidence in the case. There wasn’t a lack of evidence, there was body cam,” she told lawmakers.

Yet, Travis Ball the man who was found guilty of murdering Special Agent Walter was sentenced to 36 years in prison. It’s a sentence his widow feels was far too light for the crime.  

“My faith in the justice system has been lost,” said Walter.

Senator Bill Carrico, a Republican representing Virginia’s 40th District is sponsoring the legislation.  

It that would make it impossible to amend or reduce the sentence for someone charged with the capital murder of a law enforcement officer or fire marshal.

“I am just saying if they are charged with this section of the code they are going to get life in prison or death,” says Carrico.

Some argue the legislation would tie the hands of a Commonwealth’s attorney.

Yet, even Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring admitted to 8News at the time of sentencing he was shocked by the sentence for Walter’s killer.

“I thought the number would at least have a five in it somewhere between 50 and 60 years,” said Richmond’s Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Widows of other fallen law enforcement officers are also pressing lawmakers to pass the legislation.  

Betty Walker, whose husband Master Trooper Junius Walker was shot and killed on Interstate 85 in Dinwiddie in March of 2013 told lawmakers, “fallen heroes gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the Commonwealth, they deserve justice.”

The bill passed in the Senate and has now been referred to the House Committee for the Courts of Justice.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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