Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 613). This bill allows correctional officers to store firearms in lockers on prison grounds in order to protect themselves to and from work.
Chairman Goodlatte: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield myself such time as I may consume.
In 2004, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA). LEOSA allows certain law enforcement officers, including correctional officers of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the right to carry a concealed firearm throughout the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and all other U.S. territories for self-defense and the defense of others. LEOSA also allows law enforcement officers to carry their firearms while off-duty. These laws help keep citizens safe, but there is still room for improvement.
For example, the Bureau of Prisons does not permit its correctional officers to safely store their personal firearms in a secure locker at its facilities, and employees are otherwise prohibited from storing them in their personal vehicles while parked on BOP property. This leaves correctional workers vulnerable to attack during their commutes to and from work.
Sadly, an attack on a correctional officer while commuting to or from a prison is not a hypothetical situation. On the evening of February 26, 2013, BOP Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati was ambushed and murdered while on his way home from work. According to court documents, the shooting was a “hit” ordered by federal inmates housed at Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Authorities believe that Lieutenant Albarati’s murder was a direct result of his work at the prison – specifically, in retaliation for his investigations into cell phone smuggling at the MDC and seizure of contraband. Lieutenant Albarati was ambushed during his drive home, shot sixteen times, and died at the scene. He was 39 years old.
On January 28, 2015, a federal grand jury in the District of Puerto Rico returned a six-count indictment charging nine individuals for the murder of Lieutenant Albarati. In January 2016, federal prosecutors notified the District Court of their intention to seek the death penalty. Trial preparation is ongoing in that case.
So, Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant Albarati’s family has yet to receive justice for this senseless, despicable act. But we, as a legislative body, can do our best to ensure this never happens again.
To that end, H.R. 613 makes a common-sense amendment to federal law to address the problem highlighted by this tragedy. This bipartisan bill, cosponsored by 54 of our colleagues, would direct BOP to provide a secure storage area located outside the secure perimeter of each BOP facility, where correctional officers will be able to store their personal firearms, and allow employees to store firearms in a vehicle lockbox approved by BOP.
This is important, reasonable legislation. With its passage, the House honors the life of a brave man who served his community faithfully and, one day, made the ultimate sacrifice. I want to thank the gentleman from West Virginia, Mr. McKinley, for introducing this legislation. I also want to thank Lt. Albarati’s widow, Helen, who is here with us today in the gallery, for her tireless efforts to ensure her husband’s death was not in vain. We salute you. We thank you.
Mr. Speaker, as we begin the 2018 Police Week, I urge my colleagues to support this bill. Let us do our best to protect those who protect us.
I reserve the balance of my time.