‘I have to act’: Widow of fallen Concord police officer turns grief into action

CONCORD, N.C. — Haylee Shuping always expected to live a full life with her high school sweetheart, Jason Shuping, by her side. The couple started dating when she was 17 and a senior year at East Rowan High School.

Shortly after graduating from UNC Pembroke where they ran track together, Haylee and Jason returned home to Rowan County, and Jason was sworn in as an officer with the Concord Police Department.

“We had just started our lives together,” Haylee said. “He started his career with Concord and was with [the department] for 18 months until his end of watch.”

On Dec. 16, 2020, Jason was shot and killed by a suspected carjacker at the Sonic Drive-In off Bruton Smith Boulevard. He had just a little more than an hour left on his shift.

“I’ve been doing the best I can, emotionally,” the 25-year-old widow said. “Every day it seems to be a new struggle that I experience, but every day gets a little more manageable than the last.”

Now, Haylee is turning her grief into action and using her voice to boost a newly-filed bill in the U.S. Senate aimed at protecting local officers like Jason.

The Protect and Serve Act, introduced by Sen. Thom Tillis, would make intentionally assaulting and seriously injuring a local or state police officer a federal crime. If convicted, offenders would face prison for up to 10 years. If they kill an officer, they’d get life.

To read the act, click here.

(Watch Below: Widow of Concord Police Officer Jason Shuping pays it forward in honor of her husband)

The option to charge federally is an added protection for officers and another tool to help prosecutors. Under North Carolina law, an offender could also be charged with a felony for the same crime.

“I was sort of reluctant because I just want to be able to grieve and take my time with that, but now, knowing the current laws we have, I have to act,” Haylee said. “It’s my duty as a widow to make sure the next family that unfortunately has to deal with this, will have those legal protections to make sure justice is served for their fallen hero.”

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When it comes to her fallen hero, she said it’s still hard to talk about.

“He actually had a crush on me for the longest time, and it was actually not until my senior year when I realized I had a crush on him, too,” she said. “He had a smile that would brighten up a room anywhere he would go – a very infectious smile, and personality, as well.”

Living without Jason is something she never imagined doing, but she’s learning to navigate this new world, putting one foot in front of the other, with him in her heart.

“I hope to continue in his honor, to serve this community as best I can,” she said. “That’s my mark I want to leave on this earth, is just really pushing that legislation for him. Not only for him, but for all fallen officers who need that justice.”

(WATCH: Concord police honor fallen Officer Shuping with Medal of Valor, Purple Heart)