Indiana Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) introduced a bill Friday to give the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to remove criminals from national cemeteries.
The Alicia Dawn Koehl Respect for National Cemeteries Act would give the VA authority to exhume the remains of Michael LeShawn Anderson, a veteran who shot and killed Indianapolis resident Alicia Dawn Koehl last year before committing suicide.
Upon learning that Anderson was buried at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Michigan, Koehl’s family requested that the VA disinter his remains.
“This legislation will give the VA the authority to resolve this unacceptable mistake and help provide the Koehl family with a sense of peace and closure,” Coats said in a statement. “The victims and family members of this tragic shooting have suffered enough and deserve to have their request met.”
Federal law prohibits persons who have “committed a Federal or State capital crime but were unavailable for trial due to death” from being given the honor of a burial in a national cemetery.
While current law restricts the VA from granting military honors and a burial in a national cemetery to someone who has committed such a crime, the department claims it does not have the authority to exhume the remains if an ineligible veteran was buried mistakenly in one of their cemeteries.
The legislation is cosponsored by Coats’ fellow Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
“We must preserve the honor of being buried in a veterans’ cemetery,” Donnelly said in a statement.
On May 30, 2012, Anderson went on a shooting spree at an Indianapolis apartment complex, injuring three people and taking the life of Koehl, a wife and mother of two. Anderson turned the gun on himself as police were arriving on the scene.