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Capitol Comments: Strengthening penalties for those who attempt to murder law enforcement

Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

All of us were shocked last year after learning that a police officer from our area was shot in Waseca. After learning more details about the shooting, many of us became even more troubled.

Peggy Bennett

Officer Arik Matson was ambushed while on duty and shot in the head by a criminal with several previous violent convictions. For months, Arik was forced to endure surgeries and therapy in order to try and get his life back to normal. Thankfully, he has made amazing progress, but his life and his family’s lives will never be the same again due to his injuries.

Not long ago, Arik and Megan Mattson, who live in our legislative district, traveled to St. Paul to take part in a press conference in support of a bill I’m co-authoring.

This bill strengthens state criminal penalties against individuals who are convicted of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, judge, prosecutor or correctional officer.

The current penalty for the attempted murder of one of the above authorities is a maximum of 20 years with the offender becoming eligible for conditional release after two-thirds of the sentence is served. That is rather shocking when one considers that if someone who caused traumatic injury to a police officer such as Arik, who had to learn to eat, walk and talk again and whose life is permanently and dramatically altered, they can be free after serving a mere 14 years in prison. 

This penalty isn’t strong enough.

The legislation I’m co-authoring increases the minimum sentence from 20 years with release under supervision after two-third of the sentence is served, to life incarceration with a minimum of 30 years in prison before an early release could even be considered.

I am very pleased to have worked with the bill authors on this legislation, which has been introduced in both the House and Senate. It is being supported by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association as well as the Matsons. To me, the proposal is very common sense, and provides an important change that would help protect our police officers from tragedies like the one that happened to Officer Matson.

Thank you to Arik and Megan for traveling to Saint Paul to be part of this press conference. They did a great job testifying. Thank you, also, to the many police officers and public safety officials who put their lives on the line daily to keep us all safe. You are much appreciated!

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, is the District 27A representative.