Honoring Sgt. Steve Owen, the Act Seeks Stricter Penalties for Killing Officers.
In a decisive move to strengthen law enforcement protection, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, alongside Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, unveiled the Sgt. Steve Owen Defending Our Defenders Act. This pivotal legislation, aiming to federally criminalize the murder of state or local law enforcement officers, proposes life imprisonment or the death penalty under specific aggravating circumstances, as detailed in an announcement from Garcia's office.
The bill pays tribute to Sgt. Steve Owen, a highly decorated 29-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who tragically lost his life on October 5, 2016. Responding to a burglary call in Lancaster, Sgt. Owen was callously murdered, leaving behind a legacy of valor and community service. His illustrious career, adorned with numerous medals including the prestigious Meritorious Conduct Gold Medal, was paralleled by his dedication as a volunteer football coach at Paraclete High School, attended by his children.
Sgt. Owen's murderer, condemned to life imprisonment without parole, exemplifies the urgent need for the proposed legislation, which is yet to be assigned a number. A previous iteration of this bill was introduced by former Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, with Sen. Cotton presenting a similar version in the Senate in March 2021.
Rep. Garcia's statement accompanying the bill's announcement was emphatic. He criticized the "Defund the Police" movement and lax crime policies, which he believes have endangered police officers and escalated crime rates. Garcia expressed his commitment to bolstering the safety of law enforcement personnel, lauding the collaboration with Sen. Cotton in this legislative endeavor.
The bill seeks to amend Title 18, Section 1111 of the US Code, relating to Crimes and Criminal Procedure, expanding the scope of punishable offenses to include the murder of federal, state, or local law enforcement officers. It introduces several aggravating factors for consideration, such as intent to ambush, prior advocacy for violence against officers, and involvement with anarchist or violence-promoting groups, especially during anti-law enforcement activities.
Endorsements for the Sgt. Steve Owen Defending Our Defenders Act include notable organizations such as the National Association of Police Organizations, the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, and the Major County Sheriffs of America, among others.
Tania Owen, Sgt. Owen’s widow, and a retired 32-year veteran of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, issued a poignant statement. She expressed deep gratitude towards Congressman Garcia for honoring her husband and emphasized the importance of this legislation in holding criminals accountable and deterring heinous acts against law enforcement. Highlighting the sacrifices made by officers, she called for public support for the bill, framing it as a crucial step in ending the war on law enforcement and restoring order.