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Oklahoma lawmaker to propose bill that classifies violence against police officers as a hate crime

Oklahoma lawmaker to propose bill that classifies violence against police officers as a hate crime

Screenshot from Ware video

A frame grab from Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan's body camera shows David Ware in his car after Zarkeshan pulled him over in a traffic stop. Ware is alleged to have shot Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson, killing Johnson.

An Oklahoma state senator plans to file a bill to reclassify crimes targeting police, first responders and military personnel as hate crimes, he announced Wednesday.

Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, said in a news release that the planned bill would deem “any targeted assault or threat to a law enforcement officer, first responder, national guardsman or military service member” a hate crime.

“With the hatred and unrest in this country, we must classify these careers as a protected class,” Murdock said in a press release. “Attacks against our peace officers are absolutely a hate crime because they are targeted based on their profession.”

Murdock’s planned legislation came in response to both the shootings of Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan in June and the shootings of of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as they sat in their squad car in Compton, California, on Saturday.

Johnson died after being shot, and Zarkeshan is recovering after being critically injured. Both deputies reportedly are recovering as the search for the California shooter continues.

Tulsa police released dashboard and body-worn camera footage Monday of the June 29 east Tulsa traffic stop where Johnson and Zarkeshan were shot. Police arrested David Ware later that morning after a manhunt and eventually arrested Matthew Hall, who prosecutors have charged as an accessory. Ware has pleaded not guilty, and his case is expected to go to trial.

Another man, Jakob Garland, was indicted in federal court Tuesday on complaints alleging that he traded the gun used in the shooting to Ware in exchange for heroin.

“After the events this weekend in California — and the terrible attack on our police officers in Tulsa earlier this summer — it’s more important than ever to protect our law enforcement officers and the individuals putting their lives on the line to protect our safety,” Murdock said.

Oklahoma statutes presently classify hate crimes as malicious efforts to “intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin or disability.”

A hate crime in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor on first offense punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent offenses are felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The Tulsa City Council approved a hate crimes ordinance Wednesday that is similar to the state law but adds four additional protected classes: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The ordinance would apply only to misdemeanor crimes such as assault and battery, vandalizing or destroying personal property, and threatening such actions.

Mayor G.T. Bynum has said he will sign the local measure into law.

Bills for the state’s 2021 legislative session can be filed beginning Nov. 15, with the filing period ending Jan. 21. The legislative session opens Feb. 1.

Tulsa police chief says homicides, assault on officers rising

July gallery: Memorial service for Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson

Stetson Payne


Twitter: @stetson__payne

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Staff Writer

I cover breaking news, general assignment and other stories. I previously worked at the Enterprise-Journal in Mississippi. I'm from Broken Arrow and graduated with a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University. Phone: 918-581-8466

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