Governor Scott said, “In honor of one of your own this law will empower judges to keep criminals off the streets. It clarifies for the court that if a person is likely to be sentenced to prison if found guilty that it is in the best interest of public safety to hold that person in custody while waiting for a hearing.”
If that law had been in effect in 2008, Abel Arango, who had a significant criminal history, should have been deported in 2001 and had been arrested and released after violating probation may not have on the streets of Ft. Myers on July 18 at 2:00am fighting with his girlfriend. Officer Widman may not have stepped in to break up the fight. Arango may not have shot Widman, instantly killing him. Pursuing officers killed Arango.
Andrew’s mother Marty Widman has been waiting three years for the law. She said, “At least something good came out of a horrible situation. Hopefully no one else will have to go through now what we went through and the people that deem it necessary to take another life will not be out on the streets. So at least his death brought about the safety and security of other officers I’m hoping.”
In 2010, Florida ranked 3rd in the nation with 9 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. In the first four months of this year 10 law enforcement officers across the state have already been killed in the line of duty. Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker said the law would have protected some of them, too. And it will protect officers across the state once it takes effect on July first.
Baker said, “To go by the placard that’s on the sidewalk that the city was committed to put in and to stand there just for a moment to acknowledge Andrew’s sacrifice and what Andrew’s going to do from here on out, not just from southwest Florida or Fort Myers Police Department but the bill is significant across the state.”
It was Chief Baker who went to Senator Lisbeth Benacquisto this year asking for her help to get the law passed in the Senate. Benacquisto said, “In the first moment I met Chief Baker he said, ‘This is a folder about a young man named Andrew. And he slid it across the desk. And he said promise me you’ll read it. And then promise me you’ll do something about it. And the most proud moment I think I’ve experienced save for the birth of my children is walking on the Senate floor to a unanimous vote in the passage of the Andrew Widman Act.”
Three years prior Representative - now Judge - Nick Thompson had started the fight in the House of Representatives. Representative Matt Caldwell brought it to fruition. But that was the easy part. Caldwell said, “The bigger part is the policy itself and we’ve watched this year as many more officers have been killed in the line of duty across this state. It’s my hope and my goal that this will protect those individuals and hopefully send mothers and fathers home to their family every single night.”
Widman’s widow Susanna Makinson, who now lives in North Carolina, watched the signing via a special telecast. Widman’s parents Joseph and Marty Widman say the law means other officers have a better chance of coming home to their families. They continue to work through their loss, said Marty Widman. “We have our moments and as the years go by we really realize how big the void is that is there and I just miss him a lot.”
Andrew Widman’s birthday is May 11th. He would have been 33. His parents and other family members are visiting Florida for the occasion and plan to spend the day near his gravesite.