Officer-involved shooting prompts bill to detain suspects longer after arrest

Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey testifies in front of a state house committee Tuesday, March 6, 2018 in favor of a bill prompted by the shooting of a member of his department. (Ashley Zavala/KRCG)

Missouri lawmakers are considering whether to move forward with a bill which could lengthen the amount of time a suspect remains in custody of law enforcement after being arrested.

Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) filed the proposed legislation which would allow a seemingly dangerous person to be detained for 72 hours, or until the person appears to no longer be a threat. Current law requires any person arrested without a warrant to be discharged within 24 hours of the arrest.

A state house committee heard testimony on the proposed bill Tuesday night. During his testimony, Shaul told lawmakers about the events leading up to the recent shooting of Arnold Police Officer, Ryan O'Connor, and how the law could help avoid the horrific situation in the future.

Shaul said Arnold police arrested a man who had been known to law enforcement after he had shoplifted at a local Walmart the morning of December 5. Shaul went on to say police had to release him after he was issued a summons to appear in court for misdemeanor shoplifting, citing state laws. Shaul said the same suspect shoplifted again at the same store about an hour and a half later. After he was issued another summons, police had to release him.

"They knew something was different than normal for him," Shaul said. The suspect soon after his release allegedly broke into a home. Shaul told lawmakers after police put him in the back of a police car, the suspect took a gun he had concealed and shot O'Connor in the back of the head. The suspect then took his own life, Shaul said.

"What we're trying to do, is to make a small adjustment to allow law enforcement, to recognize when something isn't right, to act accordingly," Shaul said.

"[The subject] was impaired, we believe he was on some sort of narcotics, so we're trying to fix that gap," Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey told committee members Tuesday night. "We don't do warrants on ordinances in our city. So once a charge is charged, we have to let them go. That's where we're looking for the help."

"This is something that has changed my department and every officer in it," Shockey said. "I know it's changed me, I've been doing this job for 37 years and this is the worst thing I've ever had to deal with in my career. I have officers that are desperately looking for jobs out of the field because of this type of stuff."

Shockey said O'Connor is expected to remain in Colorado for another month or two for continued treatment for his injuries. He said the officer will never be the same again.

"The bullet that struck him was a devastating blow," Shockey told the committee.

Arnold Mayor, Ron Counts also testified.

"This was a disaster," he said. "If we would've been allowed to keep this guy in jail, maybe 72 hours, it would've given him time to come down if he was on drugs, we felt like this incident may never have taken place."

"We were trying to come up with anything possible to hopefully never have a situation like this ever happen again," Counts told committee members.

No one testified in opposition of the bill Tuesday night. The committee did not take any immediate action on the legislation.

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