State Representative Jeff Shawan, R-Poplar Bluff, is proposing to crank up the charge for individuals who run from law enforcement – triggering a high-speed chase. Under current law, bolting from officers is a misdemeanor. Shawan wants the suspects to face a class C to E felony, depending on the severity of the crime and number of times the act is committed.
During a public hearing Monday, Cass County Sheriff Jeff Weber of western Missouri says the current punishment is not enough.
“It’s got to be addressed. It’s got to be addressed now,” he says. “Because we’re only rolling the dice until these people actually hurt or kill someone.”
Van Buren Police Chief Alonzo Bradwell of southeast Missouri agrees with Weber.
“The ones that we do catch always say ‘If we could’ve just got away from you, even if you would’ve found us, it would’ve just been a misdemeanor.’ They’re more emboldened to run from us and our resources in a small community like that are very limited,” he say.
Bob Adams, a former law enforcement officer and Shawan’s cousin, says his daughter was killed in 1998 after a 14-year-old suspect slammed a stolen vehicle into hers. He says the boy was being chased by a rookie officer going 110 miles per hour through the heart of southeast Missouri’s Jackson.
“This was a tragic accident in a number of ways,” he says as his voice cracks. “It affected my family just profoundly. I can’t tell you how deeply it bothered us for a very long time.”
No one spoke in opposition to the proposal. The Missouri House Committee on Crime Prevention and Public Safety is considering House Bill 1620 and has not yet voted on the plan.
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