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Bill honoring Scranton cop goes to governor

A new law targets suspects who flee from police on foot. The bill in honor of fallen Scranton Police Officer John Wilding received bipartisan support in Harrisburg.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Inside the Scranton Police Department lobby, a memorial stands honoring Patrolman John Wilding. On July 11, 2015, Wilding was running after three robbery suspects when he jumped over a wall and fell 15 feet. He later died from his injuries.

Now, new legislation would charge suspects with a felony when a police officer is hurt or killed during a foot pursuit.

Mary Wilding, John's mother, has worked with state and local officials on this bill and is thrilled to have it passed by state lawmakers.

"He did not get the full justice that he deserved. And so for him, for every other cop in Scranton — and he was proud to stand among the police — this is for them," Mary Wilding said.

"For a person to run from the police wasn't necessarily a crime. It is now a crime, and there's higher penalties for inflicting injury when you do so," explained Scranton Police Chief Thomas Carroll.

"It's a significant upgrade, and as a felony in the second degree with death or a felony in the third degree with serious bodily injury, it has that felony enhancement in addition to the other charges that can be charged for the underlying wrongdoing," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell.

This bill was amended recently to include K-9s. If the animal is injured or killed by a suspect they are pursuing, that suspect can be held accountable to cover the costs of that police dog.

Scranton has six K-9s. Chief Carroll says they're an asset to the department but also an expense.

"There are people who attempt to inflict harm and do inflict harm on the canine itself. So it is reassuring to see that government recognizes it, and we are we have penalties for those offenders as well."

The passing of this bill is also timely. Next week marks seven years since Wilding died in the line of duty. His mother feels like he was the guardian angel to finally have this legislation passed in Harrisburg

"Sometimes, it was timing. Sometimes it was just not the right moment. I think this is the right moment; this is the right time."

The bill will now go to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk to be signed into law.

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