Under Kentucky 'Blue Lives Matter' Bill, Attacking First Responders Would Be a Hate Crime
Twenty-eight years ago, as a Daviess County sheriff’s deputy, David Osbourne went to the home of Darrell Perry to serve an eviction notice. Perry had never been on the radar of local police, so Osbourne thought serving him with papers would be routine business.
“We didn’t get in an argument inside the house. He didn’t even raise his voice. He just said, ‘Why are they doing this to me,'" Osbourne recalled. "We got back outside by the driveway. My cruiser was parked behind his car. I walked to my cruiser. I didn’t watch him, and the next thing I knew I heard the first shot go off.”
Osbourne was struck four times, including in his back. The bullet nicked his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down. The six-foot, 250-pound shooter then jumped on top of Osbourne.
“He pinned my arms back and cocked the revolver and stuck it to my head. I closed my eyes and thought, ‘This is it.' The next thing I heard was the snap of the gun, and he was out of bullets.”
Perry then pistol-whipped the deputy in the head more than 25 times, fracturing his skull.
“He got up, took my keys to the cruiser, took my portable radio, took my gun, got into my car and backed out into the highway and left, Osbourne told WKU Public Radio.
Darrell Perry served 18 years in prison.
Osbourne eventually regained the use of his legs. He still walks with a very pronounced limp and has little feeling in his legs. A reminder of that day is always with him. He now serves as Daviess County Clerk.
Recent attacks nationwide prompted Louisiana to become the first state in the nation to cover law enforcement and first responders with hate crime protections. Kentucky could be next.
Under a bill in this year’s legislative session, people convicted on intentionally targeting police and other first responders would face stricter penalties, as one would for targeting someone for their race or gender. State Representative Kevin Bratcher is sponsoring the measure, which has cleared a House committee.
“These special men and women are the first ones running towards danger when the human instinct is to run away from danger, and we need to stand beside them as they do their job," Bratcher said.
The Louisville Republican thinks there’s a growing lack of respect for law enforcement nationwide. However, crime statistics actually show an overall decline in officer killings. According to FBI data, no officers in Kentucky were killed in 2016.
Some in the legal field think adding police to Kentucky’s hate crime statute would have little effect because courts already take motive into account when considering cases. People who commit crimes against police already face stricter penalties under state law. However, under this bill, if a court finds that a hate crime was the motivating factor behind a police attack, it could be used as a sentencing factor, and in determining whether to grant an offender probation or parole.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky has raised concerns about having a 'Blue Lives Matter Law.' Advocacy Director Kate Miller says adding police and other first responders as a protected class distorts the purpose of hate crime laws.
“We believe hate crimes are designed to protect people’s most precious identity categories or their immutable characteristics like race, religion, disability status," explained Miller. "When you add this new category of someone’s profession, we think it has the potential to dilute the hate crime statutes we already have in place.”
But former Daviess County Sheriff’s Deputy David Osbourne says those who take an oath to serve and protect deserve every possible protection. He recalls the day in 1989 when serving eviction papers nearly cost him his life.
“That day, Darrell Perry knew nothing about me," remarked Osbourne. "The only thing Darrell Perry was wanting to do that day was kill the guy in the brown uniform, and it was the proverbial ‘kill the messenger.’”