After his 18-year-old daughter was murdered in 1992, shot at point-blank range outside a busy restaurant in Fresno, Calif., Mike Reynolds channeled his grief into activism, embarking on a personal crusade to lock up repeat offenders like the one who took his daughter’s life. Two years later, amid a surge of concern over violent crime and high-profile killings, he helped secure the passage of California’s three-strikes law, one of the nation’s toughest sentencing measures. The 1994 law meant that people with a serious or violent felony conviction would serve twice the usual sentence for their second felony conviction, and then sentences of 25 years to life for their third. Reynolds, who continued to advocate for strict sentencing rules even as voters elected to reverse the tough-on-crime measures he championed, died July 9 in Fresno at 79, reports the Washington Post.
“I wish somebody else would have done this and I would have a daughter,” Reynolds told the Los Angeles Times in 1994, after his advocacy efforts brought him national media attention and an invitation to the White House. As Reynolds told it, he was just an “average Joe,” with little interest in politics or policymaking before his daughter’s murder. He was a professional photographer — he took pictures at more than 4,000 weddings, according to his family — and spent his free time cooking and working on engineering and salvage projects. The three-strikes law emerged out of a deathbed promise that Mr. Reynolds said he made to his 18-year-old daughter, Kimber. She was home from college for a friend’s wedding, and had just walked out of Fresno’s Daily Planet restaurant one night in June 1992 when she was approached by two men on motorbike who tried to grab her purse. When she resisted, one of the men put a .357 Magnum to her head and pulled the trigger. She died 26 hours later. “It may have sounded like an idle promise at the time, but I promised her that if I could do anything to prevent this from happening to other kids, I would do everything I could,” Mr. Reynolds told NPR.