The “Officer Andrew Widman Act,” legislation that would make it easier to keep convicted felons behind bars if they violate their probation, passed through the Florida Senate on a unanimous vote Friday morning.
Senate Bill 844, is named after the slain Fort Myers police officer, who was gunned down by a career criminal while on duty Downtown Fort Myers on an early morning in July 2008.
The House has passed the bill the last two years, but it hasn’t made it out of the Senate until Friday.
“It is a big deal for Lee County, Southwest Florida, but really, truly the entire state,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lizbeth Benaquisto, R-Wellington, who represents parts of Lee County.
Widman’s shooter, Abel Arango, was out on probation at the time of the killing.
Two months before the shooting, Arango was arrested in Lee County on drug trafficking charges, a violation of his probation. However, he was allowed to post bond and walk out of jail.
He later walked out of a Lee County courtroom after an appearance for the drug case, despite a warrant for his arrest on the probation violation charge.
In the case of a probation offender being arrested on a new charge, the Andrew Widman Act would allow a first appearance judge to issue an arrest warrant for the probation violation.
The House version of the bill is expected to be voted on early next week, said Rep. Matt Caldwell, who is the House sponsor.