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Ahmaud Arbery bill will be a key priority for Roberts

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sen. Steven Roberts wants to end Missouri’s citizen’s arrest law.

Roberts has introduced this year SB 1131 to repeal Missouri’s common law allowing private citizens to make an arrest. The bill still allows exceptions for self-defense and defending personal property. 

“The focus is to deter a situation where you’ve got someone, in essence, being hunted down,” Roberts said in an interview.  

Roberts named the bill in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black 25-year-old who was falsely imprisoned by three white assailants while jogging in Georgia and later murdered. The three men were found guilty in the case in November. 

Roberts introduced his bill in response to the controversial SB 666 filed this year as well which attempted to strengthen Missouri’s “stand your ground” law, increasing the ability to use deadly force to defend oneself or another person. That bill failed to pass through the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee.

Roberts expressed appreciation for the bipartisan effort it took to defeat SB 666.

“I think that’s a good sign, but that’s not enough. Our legislature needs to take proactive measures to make sure that we discourage vigilantism,” Roberts, a St. Louis Democrat, said.

Roberts, who has represented SD 5 since 2021, has shared his legislation with the law enforcement associations and prosecutors and anticipates bipartisan support for the measure. 

He said passage of the bill will be a top priority of the session for him and encouraged citizens to back the legislation.

“If they could just voice their support once we get that committee hearing, I think if we could get a lot of Missourians speaking up for it that would help,” Roberts said.

Roberts is the Senate Minority Whip and is the youngest Black senator to serve in the upper chamber.