In memory of fallen trooper, legislation would increase penalties for attacks, help law enforcement families

March 7, 2019
Trooper Kevin Conner was killed while serving in Columbus County on Oct. 17, 2018.

The press conference room at the North Carolina Legislative Building was packed Thursday morning with members of law enforcement, lawmakers and family members of fallen State Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Conner when House Majority Leader John Bell took the podium.

“Friends, we are here today to send a very clear message to our law enforcement community: We’ve got your back,” Bell, R-Wayne, said.

Bell was introducing House Bill 483, known as Conner’s Law, to strengthen the penalty for using a gun while assaulting a law enforcement officer, moving the crime one step up in felony categories. Any conviction under the measure would require incarceration.

“Someone who is going to actually take a firearm and shoot at law enforcement officers, in my opinion, shouldn’t be on the street at that point. They should be in prison,” said House Speaker Tim Moore.

Moore, R-Cleveland, countered criticism that the law would single out law enforcement officers for special protection, saying, “It’s not to say one person is better than another. It’s to say that these men and women are acting in a scope of protecting the public. The actions they are taking is for the good of the community, so when someone attacks a law enforcement officer, they’re essentially attacking all of us.”

The proposal also would double the death benefits paid to family members, and Bell says the bill send a strong message to anyone pointing a gun at police.

“We’re not going to put up with it anymore,” he said.

A similar bill is already making its way through the state Senate.

Conner was shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop in October in Columbus County, near the South Carolina line. He was the father of two and the 65th Highway Patrol officer to be killed in the line of duty.

In 2011, Conner was hailed a hero when he extinguished a car fire while saving a driver involved in a crash in Whiteville.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Raheem Cole Dashanell Davis, charged with with first-degree murder in Conner’s death. Davis was driving a stolen truck when Conner pulled him over, authorities said. He was on probation at the time for a January 2017 conviction for firing a gun at a car in Chadbourn in June 2015, according to state Department of Public Safety records.