CLEVELAND (WJW) – The death of Cleveland Firefighter Johnny Tetrick has touched many people, including members of the Ohio General Assembly, who are now in the process of changing a state law in the name of the fallen firefighter.
It was on Nov. 19 that the 51-year-old Tetrick was doing his job at the scene of a rollover accident on I-90 and was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver, who sped away and was later arrested by police.
”We are filled with deep sorrow when we hear about these truly avoidable and senseless tragedies. It’s really heartbreaking,” said State Representative Bride Rose Sweeney.
The Democratic lawmaker from Cleveland says she was surprised to learn that drivers convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, for taking the life of a firefighter like Tetrick, face two to eight years in prison.
At the same time, those convicted of killing a police officer in similar circumstances face a minimum of five to eight years in prison.
The gap in punishment and the Tetrick tragedy inspired Rep. Sweeney and Republican Tom Patton, of Strongsville, to propose an amendment to an existing state senate bill.
The amendment would raise the minimum penalty for killing a firefighter or paramedic on the road to five years as well.
“It really was just important to us, closing this gap and making sure that firefighters and EMT workers know that we as the legislature respect the dignity of their work and acknowledge the dangerous scenarios that we ask them to do every time they put on the uniform,” Rep. Sweeney told FOX 8.
Many Democrats actually opposed the original senate bill that the Johnny Tetrick Amendment is now attached to.
The measure, supported by the Republican majority, would prevent authorities from stopping the sale or possession of guns near the scene of a riot or where a riot might take place.
The bill would also declare that gun stores are essential businesses that could not be shut down during a state of emergency.
When asked about the bipartisan legislative maneuver to add the Johnny Tetrick Amendment to the bill, Rep. Sweeney said, “We had an avenue that could get this done for firefighters. Prosecutors who say that this is desperately needed and so I signed off on going forward with this avenue just to get it done.”
Supporters of the amendment are hoping it focuses attention on the sacrifice of first responders like Tetrick and that the enhanced penalty for causing the death of a firefighter or paramedic serves as a deterrent.
“I’m not going to sit here and say because of this law that this will never happen again, but it is our hope that raising awareness and attention and the magnitude of, especially when we see an accident on the highway, that we should really respect those that run towards that accident,” said Rep. Sweeney.
The revised bill that the Johnny Tetrick Amendment is attached to is now expected to be approved by the Ohio Senate and then signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine.