The mother of a Nashville college student who was killed by a stray bullet said “there’s a piece of my heart that was taken” as her father questioned why a “repeat criminal” allegedly responsible for the crime was released back on the street.
“It’s kind of hard to comprehend,” Matt Ludwig, Jillian Ludwig’s father, told “Good Morning America” during a Friday interview that aired Saturday. “She was thriving so well and doing so well in so many ways, in every way.”
The Belmont University freshman student, from New Jersey, was walking on a track in Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park on Tuesday afternoon when she was shot in the head. Ludwig, 18, was taken to the hospital in extremely critical condition and died from her injuries on Wednesday, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department.
“There’s a piece of my heart that was taken from me. And I don’t know how to feel that,” her mother, Jessica Ludwig, told “GMA.”
The suspected gunman, Shaquille Taylor, 29, was allegedly shooting at a car when Ludwig was struck by a stray bullet. Police said the gunfire came from a public housing unit across the street from the park.
Taylor has been criminally charged multiple times in the past, including in 2021 when he was charged with three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The charges were ultimately dismissed earlier this year and Taylor was released after a court-appointed doctors testified that he was incompetent to stand trial. Under federal and state law, mentally incompetent defendants cannot be prosecuted.
Taylor’s most recent arrest was on Sept. 21 after police allegedly found him driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck that had been carjacked by two men wearing ski masks, authorities said in a news release. Taylor, who did not admit to being involved in the carjacking, was charged with felony auto theft and was released on a $20,000 bond, according to police. At the time of Ludwig’s shooting, he had a failure-to-appear warrant for skipping his Nov. 3 court date.
Ludwig’s father told “GMA” that Taylor should have never been released.
“A repeat criminal who’s deemed to have mental health issues should be dealt with in a facility or in some way that deals with those issues,” he said. “The answer should not be to release him back into the streets.”
In the 2021 case, one court-appointed doctor testified at an Apr. 13 hearing that a series of evaluations showed that Taylor “does not have decisional competency, and further training would not change the outcome,” according to court documents. A second court-appointed doctor concluded that Taylor was “incompetent and not committable,” while a third said Taylor did not meet the state’s criteria to be involuntarily committed, the documents state.
Under state law, two doctors have to certify that the person is suffering from a severe mental illness or developmental disability that causes them to be at a severe risk of serious harm to themself or others. The law also states that doctors are required to find that there are no less restrictive measures that could be taken.
Taylor functions at a kindergarten level, according to the court documents, which stated that he developed pneumonia at birth, which led to a brain infection. Criminal Court Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton wrote that the court had “reached the limit of its authority” and granted the dismissal of charges.
Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said the current state law for involuntarily committing someone is “nearly impossible” and “impacts public safety.”
“The law must be altered to accurately balance individual needs with public safety,” he said in a statement. “At the same time Tennessee must provide more beds and staffing resources to handle dangerous individuals.”
Taylor is currently jailed on a $280,000 bond on charges of aggravated assault and evidence tampering in Ludwig’s shooting. Police said they were in discussion with the district attorney’s office about modifying his charges.