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Stephen Bernius Memorial Act heads to Governor Kevin Stitt's desk

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 07:00:04-04

TULSA, Okla. — A bill is headed to Governor Stitt's desk that would expand the perimeters of protective orders in Oklahoma.

House Bill 4374 is also known as the Stephen Bernius Memorial Act, in memory of a Broken Arrow man that was shot and killed after being denied a protective order.

Authored by Broken Arrow Representative Ross Ford, HB 4374 passed the House on Monday. Ford says the bill was authored after a grieving mother came to him asking for a change.

On Sept. 19, 2021, Broken Arrow resident Stephen Bernius was shot and killed by his tenant Cody William O'Bryan.

According to court documents, Bernius detailed multiple incidents where he said he felt fearful and threatened by O'Bryan. Bernius attempted to evict O'Bryan but he refused to leave.

Two days prior to the killing, Bernius had tried to file a protective order against O'Bryan. However, a judge denied it because, at the time, the state's protective orders only applied to cases of domestic violence between family members or romantic partners.

The Stephen Bernius Act expands the definition of "family or household members" to include "persons not related by blood or marriage living in the same household."

After the killing, Bernius' mother, Maureen Bucchere, got to work making sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. She filed an online petition as well as reaching out to Rep. Ford.

In a statement, Rep. Ford says:

“This bill is an unfortunate necessity brought to me as a request from a mother in my House district whose son was murdered by his roommate because he was not able to obtain a protective order.”

As for O'Bryan, his legal team has entered a motion to dismiss the case and requested an evidentiary hearing.

He claims on the day of the shooting, Bernius began physically fighting with him. Because of his injuries sustained in an armed robbery where he was shot in the stomach, O'Bryan thought that Bernius could kill him.

O'Bryan claims he shot Bernius because he feared for his life and his use of defensive fore was justified under Oklahoma's Stand Your Ground law.

The motion hearing is currently scheduled for May 25th.

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