CORVALLIS, Ore. — A Benton County sheriff’s sergeant who was shot in the line of duty a year and a half ago has recovered, and now, he is fighting to increase the minimum mandatory sentence for those in Oregon who try to kill law enforcement officers.
August 11, 2012 is a day Sgt. David Peterson will never forget.
“He shot me three times,” Sgt. Peterson said. “He shot at me four times, but hit me three times.”
Demecio Cardenas Jr, now in prison, was convicted of attempted aggravated murder after he shot Peterson, and Salem Police Corporal Andrew Connolly.
“The suspect got ten years for shooting me and ten years for shooting the other officer, and that’s it,” Sgt. Peterson said. “That’s ridiculous.”
Under Measure 11, Cardenas Jr. was sentenced to two 10-year sentences for attempted aggravated murder, a charge that has a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence.
“It’s ridiculous, and it’s kind of an insult to law enforcement officers who risk their lives and risk everything,” Sgt. Peterson said. “Somebody can try to murder them and just go to prison for ten years.”
Sgt. Peterson is taking action. He teamed up with State Representative Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) who introduced House Bill 4125 last week. If it passes, it would raise the minimum mandatory sentence for the attempted aggravated murder of a law enforcement officer from 10 years to 20 years.
“I’m really optimistic about this bill,” Rep. Gelser said. “Certainly, Sgt. Peterson has a very compelling story. I think there’s a lot of common sense behind this bill. It’s received broad bi-partisan support thus far from talking with my colleagues. So, I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to move forward with it next week.”
Because the bill would increase the sentence as opposed to decreasing it, Rep. Gelser says the change can be made in a legislative session instead of going back to voters.
KEZI 9 News spoke with a private investigator on Thursday who wishes to remain anonymous. She argues that increasing minimum mandatory sentences is not a good idea because it takes power away from the judges to decide what a proper sentence should be based on the individual situation. She also believes that though law enforcement officers provide an important role in the community, the bill would prioritize their lives over anyone else.
But Rep. Gelser says trying to murder a law enforcement officer is more than an attack at just the officer.
“That crime is not just the assault on the life of that officer,” she said. “It really is an attack on the public safety.”
Rep. Gelser is presenting the bill at a public hearing next week.