Gov. Jim Justice signed the Patrol Officer Cassie Marie Johnson Memorial Act into law Monday morning.
The bill is named after Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson, 28, who died after being shot in December 2020.
The prosecution in the case originally charged Joshua Phillips, the man who shot Johnson, with first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Johnson was worried about her safety because Phillips had pulled a gun, prevented Johnson from getting to her service weapon and struggled with her before shots were fired.
In June 2022, Phillips was found guilty of second-degree murder, following three days of deliberations in the trial.
The memorial act, Senate Bill 490, creates a criminal penalty for interfering with an on-duty law enforcement officer, resulting in the officer’s death.
“The vote was unanimous in both chambers, and I salute them in every way,” Justice said. “Thank you all for, for everything. Basically, what this is doing is stiffening the penalties. This is Senate Bill 490. Patrol Officer, Cassie Marie Johnson Memorial Act. So like I said with great, great honor. When someone takes the life of one of our law enforcement officers, this bill makes sure that they are punished for their actions, and so I’m going to sign.”
The penalty for killing an on-duty law enforcement officer in West Virginia is now life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
After Monday’s signing of Senate Bill 490, Mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin released a statement.
“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think about Cassie, her commitment to our community, and the loss that was experienced by so many – especially her brothers and sisters in blue,” said Goodwin. “We appreciate the Legislature’s willingness to sit down and listen to our police officers – and, especially, the family of Cassie Johnson.”