The mother of a Nashville college student killed by a stray bullet said “there’s a piece of my heart that was taken” when her father asked why a “repeat criminal” allegedly responsible for the crime was released back onto the streets.
“It’s kind of hard to understand,” Matt Ludwig, Jillian Ludwig’s father, told “Good Morning America” during a Friday interview that aired Saturday. “She thrived so well and did so well in so many ways, in every way.”
The Belmont University freshman from New Jersey was walking on a track at Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park Tuesday afternoon when she was shot in the head. Ludwig, 18, was taken to hospital in extremely critical condition and died of his injuries Wednesday, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department.
“There’s a part of my heart that was taken from me. And I don’t know how to feel,” her mother, Jessica Ludwig, told “GMA.”
The suspected gunman, Shaquille Taylor, 29, was reportedly shooting at a car when Ludwig was struck by a stray bullet. Police said the gunshot came from a public housing unit across the street from the park.
Taylor has been charged several 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 doctor 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 that had been carjacked by two men wearing ski masks, authorities said in a news release. Taylor, who did not admit to involvement in the carjacking, was charged with felony auto theft and was released on $20,000 bond, according to police. At the time Ludwig was shot, he had a failure to appear warrant to skip his Nov. 3 court date.
Ludwig’s father told “GMA” that Taylor should never have been released.
“A repeat offender who is considered to have mental health issues should be treated in a facility or some other way that deals with those issues,” he said. “The answer should not be to put him back on the street.”
In the 2021 case, a court-appointed physician testified at an April 13 hearing that a series of evaluations showed Taylor “does not have decision-making capacity and further education would not change the outcome,” according to court documents. Another court-appointed medical examiner concluded that Taylor was “incompetent and non-committal,” while a third said Taylor did not meet the state’s criteria for being involuntarily committed, the documents state.
Under state law, two doctors must certify that the person suffers from a serious mental illness or developmental disability that places them at a serious risk of serious harm to themselves or others. The law also states that doctors are required to establish that there are no less restrictive measures that can be taken.
Taylor is functioning at a kindergarten level, according to the court documents, which said 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 approved the dismissal of charges.
Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk said the current state law for involuntarily committing someone is “almost impossible” and “affects public safety.”
“The law must be changed to accurately balance individual needs with public safety,” he said in a statement. “At the same time, Tennessee must provide more beds and staff resources to handle dangerous individuals.”
Taylor is currently jailed on a $280,000 bond on charges of aggravated assault and tampering with evidence in Ludwig’s shooting. Police said they were in discussions with the district attorney’s office about changing his charges.