Bill, If Passed, Would Increase Minimum Sentence To LifeBy Caroline Cummings

ST. Paul, Minn. (WCCO)—A shooting that nearly killed Waseca Police Office Arik Matson last January is prompting a group of Minnesota lawmakers to introduce a bill toughening penalties for attempted murder of a police officer.

A year ago last week, Matson was shot was shot while chasing a suspect through a Waseca neighborhood. He sustained serious injuries that required multiple surgeries and rehab.

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The man who shot him, Tyler Janovsky, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for that crime, and others he committed against additional officers who were on the scene.

The bill was introduced in the Minnesota Senate by Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-St. Paul, Sen. David Tomassoni of the newly formed Independent Caucus and Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault.

“Any attempt on an officers’ life must be met with punishment that matches the heinousness of the crime,” Jasinski said.

Jasinski and supporters of the bill at a news conference Thursday said current law does not provide enough of a penalty for people convicted of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, judge, prosecutor or correctional officer.

Right now, the maximum sentence is 20 years with release under supervision after two-thirds — or for a 20-year-sentence, 14 years — is served. The proposal would effectively double the maximum sentence by boosting the penalty to life in prison, with a mandate that at least 30 years served before the convicted is eligible for release.

Officer Arik Matson (credit: CBS)

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Matson joined lawmakers in St. Paul to lend his support for the bill written in his honor.

“I wish I could say this would be the last time we’d have to prosecute this crime, but unfortunately that’s probably not going to be the case,” Matson said. “Thank you for all of the support this past year and all of the prayers and kind gestures from everybody. It’s been amazing, but it’s definitely been a whirlwind to recover.”

Waseca County Attorney Rachel Cornelius, who prosecuted Matson’s case, said it became clear that there is a “glaring gap” in current statute, which she added doesn’t account for the aftermath of an attempted killing, like if someone almost died and had to learn to eat, walk and talk all over again.

“We provided for higher penalties for the murder of police officers, but there was no similar increases for the penalties for attempted murder,” Cornelius said. ”This legislation fixes that, and gives prosecutors in Minnesota like myself another tool in our toolbox to pursue violent criminals.”

There’s a companion bill to be introduced by Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, in the DFL-controlled House, but it’s unclear if any Democrats will sign on. In a statement, Democratic Speaker Melissa Hortman said she looks forward to continued conversations about public safety, but declined to comment on the bill specifically.

“We are deeply grateful to officers like Arik Matson who serve with incredible courage and integrity and put their lives on the line every day to protect others,” Hortman said. “I look forward to the continued conversation this year on improving public safety for everyone and building on our bipartisan record of reform.”

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Caroline Cummings