By Signal Staff
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, have introduced the bicameral Sgt. Steve Owen Defending Our Defenders Act.
The Sgt. Steve Owen Defending Our Defenders Act would make the murder of a state or local law enforcement officer a federal crime punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty, if certain aggravating factors are met.
“The Defund the Police movement and soft-on-crime policies from the far left have severely handicapped police officers’ ability to confront skyrocketing crime rates and have put these brave men and women in more danger than ever,” Garcia said in a prepared statement about the legislation. “We must do more to take care of our heroic law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe. That’s why I’m proud to join Sen. Tom Cotton in introducing this important bill.”
The bill is named in memory of Sgt. Steve Owen, a Lancaster sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty in October 2016 when he was shot five times while responding to a burglary call. His killer, Trenton Lovell, pleaded guilty to the execution-style murder and was sentenced in 2021 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Lovell, 33, confessed that, after having murdered Owen, he then jumped into Owen’s patrol vehicle and crashed into the vehicle of another deputy who had just arrived on the scene to provide Owen with backup.
Shortly before he was arrested, Lovell also fled the collision site, ran into a nearby home and held the residents inside at knifepoint while he robbed them.
Garcia added: “I named this legislation in honor of a hero of the Antelope Valley, Sgt. Steve Owen, who was brutally murdered in 2016 while on duty. It is critical that we pass this legislation to ensure our law enforcement officers have the protection necessary to do their jobs effectively. The men and women who protect us every day deserve to know that we have their back.”
Cotton released the following statement regarding the Senate version of this bill:
“Law enforcement officers dedicate their lives to defending the rule of law and protecting their fellow citizens. An attack on an officer is an attack on our democracy, and those criminals must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This bill will subject those who murder police to a punishment they deserve, life in prison or the death penalty.”
According to the statement from Garcia’s office, the bill is supported by the National Association of Police Organizations, the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Major County Sheriffs of America and the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations. The bill is also supported by Heritage Action.
The full text of the bill, as introduced, is available at bit.ly/3TjDmmx.