Richmond, VA – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday signed into law a bill that would require cop killers to serve a minimum of life in prison for their crime.
Virginia Senate Bill 1501 said that anyone convicted of the capital murder of a member of law enforcement must spend a minimum of life in prison, WTVR reported.
Virginia includes fire marshals or deputy or assistant fire marshals, auxiliary deputy sheriffs, or any law-enforcement officer of another state or the United States who has the power to arrest in its definition of a law enforcement officer for the purposes of the legislation.
The legislation is dedicated to the memory of Virginia State Police Special Agent Mike Walter, who was gunned down during a traffic stop on May 26, 2017.
Agent Walter, assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations' Drug Enforcement Section, was doing a high-visibility patrol with several Richmond police officers in the 1900-block of Redd Street when they encountered a Silver Chevrolet Cobalt parked the wrong way on the street, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Travis Ball, the passenger, got into an altercation with Agent Walter and shot him in the head, WVVA reported.
Ball fled the scene and was captured several hours later in Northumberland County.
Agent Walter, an 18-year veteran of the Virginia State Police, was transported to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for emergency treatment.
He succumbed to his wounds early on the morning of May 27, 2017, the Officer Down Memorial Page reported.
Agent Walter was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He is survived by his wife and three children.
SB 1501 was introduced after Ball, Agent Walter’s killer, entered an Alford plea to capital murder and received a suspended life sentence. He was ordered to serve only 36 years, WVVA reported.
“I am beyond thankful and humbled,” Agent Walter’s wife, Jaime Walter, told WTVR. “I can now believe in the justice system, our law enforcement officers can believe in the justice system, and most importantly, our children can believe in the justice system and see that accountability for your actions will happen.”
Former Virginia State Trooper and now retiring Virginia State Senator Bill Carrico sponsored the legislation after he saw an interview Jaime Walter gave regarding her husband’s killer’s sentence.
“I am hoping this sends a clear message to anyone who targets a police officer in Virginia, you will now face life locked away or death,” Carrico told WTVR. “Now those men and women that fought this courageous battle against evil can rest in peace knowing that no one else will walk away with a slap on the wrist for taking their lives.”
Jaime Walter said she had expected Ball to have gotten at least 50 years behind bars for killing her husband. Despite her own heartache, she worked hard to pass SB 1501 so no other family would have to see its loved one’s killer walking the streets in their lifetime.
“While this will not help my husband’s case, it will help future capital murder cases of law enforcement officers,” said Walter.
Capital murder is a Class 1 felony, which carries a sentence of life in prison and a $100,000 fine. If the defendant is over the age of 18, Class 1 felonies may be punishable by death, according to WSET.
A public signing ceremony for SB 1501 will be scheduled in April.