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A freshman at Nashville‘s Belmont University was shot in the head by a man who just earlier this year was jailed for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but was released after a court deemed him mentally incompetent to stand trial, according to police.
The 18-year-old student and aspiring musician from New Jersey was hit with a stray bullet while walking at a Nashville, Tennessee park near Belmont’s campus at 2:30 pm on Tuesday. The suspected killer was identified as 29-year-old Shaquille Taylor, who police arrested on Wednesday and charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering. Taylor’s bond was placed at $280,000.
BREAKING: Shaquille Taylor, 29, is being charged with agg assault & evidence tampering for Tue afternoon's shooting of Belmont Univ student Jillian Ludwig, 18. Taylor was shooting at a car when a bullet hit Ludwig in the head as she walked on a track in a park across the street. pic.twitter.com/ZkoB7clySc
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) November 8, 2023
“Taylor was shooting at a car when a bullet hit Ludwig in the head as she walked on a track across the street,” a statement from the Metro Nashville Police Department reads. Police say she was shot at 2:24 pm, but she was not found until approximately 3:30 pm, when a passerby saw her and called the police. She was taken to the hospital and passed away during the night.
Davidson County court records reveal that Taylor has a long criminal history. He served 11 months and 29 days for a 2016 assault charge and was found guilty for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2018, which resulted in him serving a year and two months on probation.
In 2021, Taylor was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he was accused of shooting into a car containing a woman and two children — a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. Although he admitted to detectives that he did shoot into the vehicle, Taylor was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial, resulting in Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton dismissing the case.
The judge released Taylor back onto the street after it was found that he did not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment to a mental institution.
Jillian Ludwig passed away. A stray bullet killed her when she was just simply walking in a park Tuesday afternoon.
I asked her aunt if there’s more I can do to help and she said,
“You can keep her story alive so this man and others like him never devastate another family.” pic.twitter.com/Z4C8quGpxt
— Kelsey Gibbs (@kelseymgibbs) November 9, 2023
Just months later, Taylor was charged with felony auto theft after he was seen driving a car that had been carjacked by two men in ski masks just days earlier, according to police. He was released on $20,000 bond and failed to appear in court.
Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk criticized the Tennessee law pertaining to involuntary commitment, slamming the “nearly impossible standard” and asserting that “the law must be altered to accurately balance individual needs with public safety.”
“I definitely think it is worth looking at the gap that exists between someone who is deemed incompetent to stand trial, and yet winds up then in a place where they can be on the streets untreated and armed,” newly elected Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell stated at a media roundtable.
🎙️ At today's media roundtable, @freddieoconnell talked about the "loophole" that allowed Taylor back on the street. Here was part of his response:
"I definitely think it is worth looking at the gap that exists between someone who is deemed incompetent to stand trial, and yet…
— The Pamphleteer, Nashville ✰ ✰ ✰ (@realpamphleteer) November 9, 2023
His comments also indicated that even those who’ve been charged with murder could be let back out onto the street, stating “I suspect that if there were a murder charge, for the same suspect, it could be possible that that would be dismissed.”
“Unfortunately, our criminal legal system and limited mental health access left a dangerous individual both untreated and legally armed,” remarked O’Connell, a Democrat, who called the shooting an act of “senseless gun violence.” He added “Doctors have previously deemed the suspected shooter to be incompetent to stand trial.”