Alabama Senate passes bill making murder of on-duty first responder a capital offense — Named after slain Auburn PD officer
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed as amended HB 59, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) that would make killing an on-duty first responder a capital offense.
The vote was unanimous, as it was when the legislation passed the House.
An amendment was tacked on by State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) to name the proposed law after the late Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Sunday night.
The bill adds on-duty first responders to the list of murder victims that constitutes a capital offense. State law already makes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or prison guard a capital offense. Capital offenses in Alabama are punishable by life in prison or death.
Sells’ bill would also add on-duty law enforcement officers, prison guards and first responders as victims in the list of aggravating circumstances to a capital offense. This would make the death penalty more likely in the sentencing phase of this kind of capital offense.
In HB 59, first responders are defined as emergency medical services personnel licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and firefighters and volunteer firefighters as defined by existing state law.
The bill now goes back to the House because it was amended. The House is expected to concur with the Senate amendment, sending the legislation to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk.
Sells has sponsored this bill the past two legislative sessions, ever since the infamous deadly 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, TX. Last year, it passed the House and was the next bill up on the Senate calendar for a vote when the chamber adjourned sine die.
Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes has said he will seek the death penalty if the man charged with Buechner’s death is convicted on a capital murder charge.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn