Ankle monitor bill inspired by Dallas hospital shooting signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott
A new law inspired by the killing of two workers at a Dallas hospital last year will soon make tampering with an ankle monitor a state felony.
Gov. Greg Abbott signed off on Senate Bill 1004, authored by State Sen. Joan Huffman and Rep. Abel Herrero, at a press conference Tuesday in which a slew of public safety bills were made law.
Abbott also referenced current police efforts to locate a man accused of killing a 9-year-old girl in Dallas in 2019.
"There was still, in a separate crime, a man missing in Dallas County right now after cutting off his ankle monitor while waiting for his murder trial," he said.
The Dallas Morning News reported 23-year-old Tyrese Simmons is missing ahead of his capital murder trial this week for the death of Brandoniya Bennett. Simmons allegedly fired a gun into Bennett's family's Munger Avenue apartment, killing her. The Dallas County District Attorney's Office confirmed Simmons tampered with his ankle monitor and couldn't be reached.
SB 1004 is part of a legislative package named after a separate incident in 2022. Hospital workers Jacqueline Pokuaa and Katie “Annette” Flowers were working at Methodist Dallas Medical Center last October when police say they were shot and killed by 30-year-old Nestor Hernandez.
Police said Hernandez was wearing an ankle monitor while visiting his girlfriend at the hospital as she gave birth, but they said he had permission to be there. A letter from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles stated Hernandez had six different ankle monitor violations before he allegedly killed Pokuaa and Flowers.
The governor also signed SB 840 from state Sen. Royce West and Rep. Rafael Anchia, both of Dallas, which would seek to heighten penalties for specifically harming hospital workers.
Anchia, who also sponsored SB 1004 in the house, said he supported this legislation to honor Pokuaa and Flowers and said the new law would hold parolees accountable.
"When you have an ankle monitor, you are making a promise to society that you're going to abide by the terms of that supervision," Anchia said. "And tampering with or cutting off your ankle monitor is a pretty significant breach of that promise that you make to society."
A spokesperson with the Methodist Health System wrote in a text message the hospital supported SB 1004 and is "pleased it passed."
Some criminal justice advocates say the harsher punishment provided by the new law won’t fix the ankle monitor system — one Jennifer Toon said is flawed.
"It's so much more complex than just, 'well, we'll make it a criminal offense and we'll send them right back to prison right then,'" said Toon, project director at Lioness Justice Impacted Women’s Alliance. "And the concern for us is that, you know, that equipment does not work as efficiently as legislators in the community think."
Toon testified during the legislative session against other bills associated with the Pokuaa-Flowers Act. As a formerly incarcerated person who once wore an ankle monitor, she said a felony charge likely won't deter parolees like Hernandez from committing a crime as Abbott and others say.
“We're just looking at the ways that this really affects people who are trying to do the right thing, and how this creates barriers for them,” she said.
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