A bill in honor of a Waseca police officer aims to increase the sentence for trying to kill an officer or other legal officials.
Sen. John Jasinski and Rep. John Petersburg introduced bills Thursday in the Minnesota Senate and House to change the minimum sentence to 30 years in prison for attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, correctional officer, judge or prosecutor.
The required sentence would be changed to a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Waseca police officer Arik Matson and his wife, Megan Matson, worked with Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius to bring the bill proposal to lawmakers.
“We are turning a tragic event that happened to our family into something purposeful,” Megan Matson said during a press conference Thursday morning.
Arik Matson was shot in the head by a wanted man one year ago. He sustained a serious brain injury from which he continues to recover.
The Waseca man who shot Matson and at other Waseca police officers received consecutive sentences of 20 years and 15 years for a total of 35 years in prison. With time served and early parole, Tyler Robert Janovsky could be out of prison in 22 years.
Existing law sets the maximum sentence at 20 years for attempting to kill one officer and 15 years for additional officers, Cornelius said.
“The current law does not account for if the officer or officers are gravely injured, almost die, have to relearn how to eat, walk and talk all over again, and possibly not ever return to work,” Cornelius said Thursday, echoing the statement made in November after Janovsky’s sentencing hearing.
Arik and Megan Matson on Thursday thanked the bill’s creators and supporters.
“I wish I could say this is the last time we’ll have to prosecute this crime, but unfortunately that will probably not be the case,” Arik said. “Thank you for acknowledging how our jobs as officers are never normal and that we have a number of circumstances that can go wrong and be very tragic.”
“Passing this bill would mean a lot to us,” Megan said. “It would feel like a big thank you to all the men and women that helped us along Arik’s journey. To know that if and when this happens again that the next family would have better justice than what was offered to us. There will never be enough justice. But this is a start.”
Jasinski, R-Faribault, and Petersburg, R-Waseca, both represent the Waseca area.
“I think it is time that we tell law enforcement personnel that we support them and we have their backs,” Petersburg said.
“Any attempt on an officer’s life must be met with punishment that matches the heinousness of the crime,” Jasinski said. “We’re going to make sure that officers and their families get justice.”
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association is lobbying for the bill’s passage, as is the Law Enforcement Labor Services union, which represents Waseca officers.
“What we’ve seen over the last year is unacceptable when it comes to people shooting at our law enforcement,” said Brian Peters, executive director of the Police and Peace Officers Association. “I’m here to ask that we make the penalty stronger for this offense, and that’s what this bill does.”
Jim Mortenson, executive director of the union, called Arik Matson “the definition of a true American hero.”
“The least we can do for him and every other officer out there protecting our communities is to pass this legislation that adequately holds violent criminals accountable.”