Bill to enhance punishment for drive-by shooters who hurt children passes TN House

Local In TN
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The Tennessee House has passed a bill named for a 12-year-old Knoxville boy that would increase punishment for those convicted of drive-by shootings that harm a child.

The “JaJuan Latham Act” passed unanimously in the House on Tuesday. The bill was set to be voted on in a Senate committee the same day.

Moments after the House voted, Jajuan’s mother Delandra Porter was at a loss for words when asked what the moment felt like, “First of all I’m thankful, happy for everyone who played a part in this decision making this law… I’m at a loss for words honestly,” Porter said before breaking down into tears.

Even Representative Rick Staples broke down, providing a glimpse into the amount of personal passion tied to this bill. 

“It’s been a long road for the family, I appreciate them letting me serve them in this capacity, I appreciate the governor for funding it – we’ve been working for a couple of years on trying to get this done,” Rep. Staples said.

The bill is named for the 12-year-old Knoxville boy who was killed in a drive-by shooting while in the back of his father’s parked car. 

JaJuan had just attended a “Stop the Violence” basketball game, which was an event honoring the memory of his own cousin, Zaevion Dobson, who was also killed in a drive-by shooting just months earlier while shielding several girls from gunfire.

The bill would establish enhanced penalties for these shooters that hurt minors during a drive-by shooting. 

“This is something we know can help the entire state of TN, this family, unfortunately, made the ultimate sacrifice and we just want to lift them up and honor them,” Rep. Staples added. 

Offenses include intentional aggravated assault, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, and criminally negligent homicide. 

“I just hope that this will detur these acts of violence you know? And hopefully, this will try to help keep this violence down and hopefully start something that can change the ways of these people that’s committing these crimes,” Porter said. 

To date, no one has been prosecuted in the shooting death of Jajuan Latham. 

WATE reached out to the District Attorney’s Office for comment, we’re told it is still an ongoing investigation. 

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