A man freed from jail with the help of a bail fund promoted by Vice President Kamala Harris is now facing murder charges.
Harris promoted the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) in June 2020 to “help post bail for those protesting on the ground in Minnesota.” The MFF also posted bail for alleged criminals not associated with protests, like 47-year-old George Howard who was being held on domestic assault charges, according to Fox News.
According to Minneapolis police, Howard shot and killed 38-year-old Luis Damian Martinez Ortiz during a road rage incident in Minneapolis. Surveillance video reportedly showed Ortiz and Howard getting into an altercation on an interstate on-ramp, according to KSTP in St. Paul.
Ortiz stepped out of his car, a blue BMW, and walked toward Howard’s white Volvo when he collapsed. As the Volvo drove away, Ortiz got up, got back in his car, and drove until crashing. Video later allegedly showed Howard pulling into a nearby gas station and getting out of the Volvo’s driver’s seat. Another passenger in the Volvo then got in the seat and drove away.
Police investigators later caught up with Howard and the person who drove the Volvo away from the gas station. According to KSTP:
Investigators spoke with that passenger who drove the Volvo away from the gas station. The passenger told investigators Ortiz allegedly punched Howard before Howard allegedly fired a shot and left the scene.
When investigators interviewed him, Howard admitted to getting into a road rage incident with Ortiz but initially claimed nothing happened. When investigators prompted Howard with the surveillance video, Howard claimed there was yet another passenger in the Volvo who shot Ortiz from the back seat. Investigators reported Howard was unable to provide identifying information about this additional passenger.
On Friday, the MFF admitted that it had played a role in setting Howard free from jail and said that it is reviewing its policies over the alleged incident.
“We are aware of reports of the tragic and fatal shooting in Minneapolis earlier this week allegedly involving George Howard, an individual the Minnesota Freedom Fund had previously provided with bail support,” the MFF said in a statement, according to Fox News. “MFF believes that every individual who has been arrested by the law enforcement is innocent until proven guilty, and if a judge deems them eligible for bail, they should not have to wait in jail simply because they don’t have the same income or access to resources as others.”
“Under new leadership, MFF has implemented changes to its policies and procedures, and we will continue to assess them to ensure that we are being responsive to the safety and needs of our community,” the MFF added.
In September of last year, a report detailed how the MFF had posted bail for six men accused of domestic violence. As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
A bail fund promoted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) bailed half a dozen men out of jail over the summer, all of whom are accused of domestic violence, according to The Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).
Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, promoted the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) in June to help bail out protesters arrested while demonstrating over the death of George Floyd. The bail fund has paid for the release of a number of others charged with crimes unrelated to the protests, however, including two men charged with strangling their victims in the victims’ homes.
By its own admission, MFF has spent little of its money on bailing out people arrested on protest-related charges. In a Sept. 4 blog post, MFF stated: “Since the uprising, we have paid $3,475,000 for county bails with $210,000 of that being used for protest-related bails that we were able to support,” referring to civil unrest that broke out across the U.S. over Floyd’s death.
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