Senate committee considering bill to honor slain Baltimore police officer Keona Holley

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Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony about a measure named to honor slain Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley on Tuesday.

The Officer Keona Holley Public Safety Act, or Senate Bill 652, would make people ineligible for parole if they are convicted of conspiring to, attempting to or committing the murder of a police officer because of their role in law enforcement.

“This was not a shooting that was done in the course of a crime to which Officer Holley had responded,” said Sen. Robert G. Cassilly (R-Harford), the bill’s sponsor. “This was not a bank robbery gone bad — no, Officer Holley was targeted and shot in cold blood, in deliberation, solely because Officer Holley was a police officer.”

“This bill would not apply to those cases where, for example, a shootout occurs in the course of a robbery gone wrong,” Cassilly explained. “It specifically targets those who target those who serve the public.”

Holley was shot while sitting in her patrol car in the early morning hours of Dec. 16, according to Baltimore police.

Supporters of the bill include Baltimore Police Chief Michael Harrison, the Baltimore City chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Maryland chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Holley’s mother, sister and two of her four children sat in the front row of the committee room.

“Becoming a police officer was not just a job for her or a paycheck,” her sister, Lawanda Sykes, told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “She went out every day and left her four children to make a difference within the community of Baltimore City.”

Sykes offered emotional testimony about what her family was stripped of when Holley was killed last year: a “goal-setter,” a hard worker and charitable to anyone in need.

Two men have been charged for her death.

“On Dec. 16, 2021, I remember looking at the clock right before bed and it read 12:34 a.m.,” she said.

Sykes explained that she and Holley shared “angel numbers” — or numbers read in sequences that the pair found meaning in. To Sykes and Holley, 12:34 was one of those.

“I thought to myself I hadn’t called her that day, and I wish I could have because I didn’t get the chance to have that last conversation with her,” Sykes said.

Nearly an hour later, Sykes got a call from her mother who said officers were on their way to get her because her sister had been shot.

“It was my worst fear, and I’ve been living in a nightmare since that night,” she said.

Holley died on Dec. 23, 2021, at 4:44 p.m. — “which is another angel number we shared,” said Sykes. “To me, that meant my sister had done her job she was at peace and she was at rest.”

Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), who, in large part, led a charge for the police reform package passed by the legislature in 2021, thanked Holley’s family for appearing before the committee.

“She’s exactly … what we want in a police officer,” said Carter.

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair William C. Smith Jr. (D-Montgomery) told the family that the committee was “immeasurably sad for their loss.”

“Her story is very inspirational because she, obviously, joined to change things within the system and to break down those barriers between communities of color and policing and she’s exemplary of a true public servant,” he said.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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