WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) praised final passage in Congress of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults. The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.
The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, through a national communications network to assist law enforcement in the search.
“In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Meltony and Brandy Billie did something extraordinary: they channeled grief into a determination that other families would be spared the anguish of losing a loved one like they did Ashanti. Though no one can ever erase their pain, I hope it comforts them now to know that Ashanti’s death will not have been in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “Ashanti’s memory will carry on in the lives that will be saved through this new alert system.”
“If you knew Ashanti, then you knew that you had a friend. I have said often that she never met a stranger. Though it has been hard coping with her leaving me, her earthly father, I have great joy knowing that she is with her heavenly Father and one day we will see one another again. I am eternally grateful for her life—a life well lived—because through the Ashanti Alert Act lives will be saved,” said Meltony Billie, father of Ashanti Billie. “I thank my family for carrying me when I began to weaken, I want to thank Michael Muhammad, Kimberly Wimbish, Attorney Don Scott, Delegate Jay Jones and his team, Congressman Scott Taylor and his team, Senator Mark Warner and his team, and I dare not forget about the Hampton Roads Community, and everyone who has being praying for my family.”
“We are elated that this legislation has been enacted. Just because my daughter's life was tragically cut short, that doesn't mean that my time as a mother, her mother is over; far from it. This federal legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act, is the first step in my current journey without my daughter by my side. The Ashanti Alert will be a beacon of hope for those that have a loved one deemed as missing under questionable circumstances. Our dream is to bring as many as possible of those missing back home safely,” said Brandy Billie, mother of Ashanti Billie. “I feel that Ashanti has been an angel watching not only over me, but guiding all those that have helped us. From day one the local community in the Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Norfolk area have welcomed us as family and helped in our search for our daughter, and we say thank you. To our team Michael Muhammad, Don Scott and Kim Wimbish who have never left our side since day one, we say thank you. To all law enforcement and FBI personnel, we say thank you. To all the news outlets that have kept her story alive, we say thank you. To Delegate Jay Jones, Congressman Scott Taylor and Senator Mark Warner, we say thank you. Through the prayer, determination, and work of such a diverse village, the Ashanti Alert Act has come to be and will save lives.”
“This law will save lives. It closes a glaring gap in our present alert system. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Mark Warner on the Ashanti Alert Act and championed its quick passage through Congress. This law will create a real-time alert system for missing adults, providing vital information to first responders and helping save lives,” said Blumenthal. “Ashanti’s family should be commended for sharing her story, and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action. Their strength and advocacy will help prevent other families from going through similar tragedies,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.
“The NAACP is proud to support this crucial legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “We are grateful to Senator Warner and Congressman Taylor for taking the lead and filling in a gap in our Nation’s safety protections. Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”
“We are grateful to Senator Warner for working with the FOP to improve this legislation to make Ashanti Alerts an effective tool for law enforcement and the public. Without his leadership, I do not think this bill would have gotten through the Congress,” said Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police.
"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."
“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie. We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”
“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”
In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor. After the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing in the Senate, Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage by unanimous consent in that chamber. This version of the bill has now passed the House and will head to the President’s desk for signature.