Proposed legislation could lead to stiffer penalties for people who cut off ankle monitors and require notification to police and other officials when a parolee is allowed to visit a hospital.
The bill, announced Monday in Dallas by local and state officials, was spurred by a shooting at Methodist Dallas Medical Center in October that killed nurse Katie Annette Flowers and social worker Jacqueline Ama Pokuaa.
The accused gunman, Nestor Hernandez, was on parole with an ankle monitor who had permission to be at the hospital for the birth of his child, officials said. He had previously cut off the screen. Methodist Health System’s police chief has said police had no warning that Hernandez would be at the hospital.
The killings resulted in widespread scrutiny of the use of ankle monitors, which was criticized by Dallas police, prosecutors, the ACLU, researchers and residents. In January, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Board of Pardons and Paroles released a report recommending criminal charges for people who intercept ankle monitors and that law enforcement prioritize arrest warrants for parolees under the highest level of supervision. Cutting off an ankle monitor is currently not a criminal offense, but rather an administrative violation.
One of the bills, HB 3547, was authored by Dallas Democratic state representative Rafael Anchía. He said officials were trying to analyze “the last best chance for us to avoid this tragedy,” adding that the legislation has bipartisan support.
If the legislation passes, parolees who cut off the ankle monitor would face a felony and also have to serve the remainder of their sentence, Anchía said.
“What happened at Methodist was so shocking and so alarming, and the mistakes so great, that I’ve had Republican House members come up to me, Democratic House members come up to me, and they’re all asking me to sign the this bill.” Anchia said. “So I think there’s going to be significant momentum.”
Hernandez, who is charged with manslaughter in the fatal hospital shooting, was set for parole in October 2021 after serving 80% of an eight-year prison sentence. He had previously broken curfew but spent only 12 days in jail due to insufficient evidence, officials said. He later cut off the ankle monitor, leading to another 100 days of confinement in the months before the Methodist shooting.
Police said Hernandez accused his girlfriend of cheating on him, attacked her and then shot Pokuaa when she entered the room to provide routine patient services. Flowers looked into the room and was also shot, police said.
The legislation will be named after Pokuaa and flowers, Anchía said.