Nashville, Tennessee – A White college student and talented musician has now died after police say she was struck in the head by a “stray bullet.” For the crime, police arrested a prolific Black career criminal who was once deemed incompetent to stand trial for a spate of deadly assault charges involving firearms.
On November 7th, 18-year-old Jillian Ludwig, a student at Nashville’s Belmont University, was shot by a stray bullet while walking at a local park. According to Police, the bullet was fired by 29-year-old Shaquille Taylor, who was captured on surveillance camera firing at a nearby vehicle at a public housing complex across the street.
Taylor—who is Black—is believed by authorities to have missed his target and, instead, struck Ludwig—who is White—in the back of the head. She was found unresponsive by a passerby an hour later and was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition. Two days later, Ludwig died from her injuries.
For the crime, police arrested Taylor and charged him with aggravated assault and evidence tampering. These charges are now expected to increase to murder, however, pending review by a Grand Jury. During their investigation, police claim Taylor confessed to the shooting and learned he had given away the murder weapon to an unidentified third party as a way to conceal evidence. He’s currently being held on a $280,000 bond.
Taylor is no stranger to acts of violence and reckless behavior with firearms. In 2021, he faced three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from an incident where Taylor and another individual were accused of shooting at a female driver with her two children in the back seat. Earlier this year, however, a Nashville judge dismissed these charges after three court-appointed doctors testified that he was “incompetent to stand trial” due to an alleged mental deficiency.
In Taylor’s case, doctors claimed that he had developed pneumonia at birth, which led to a brain infection. As a result, they ruled that he functions at a kindergarten level and couldn’t be held accountable in a courtroom setting. Despite this, the court also ruled that Taylor did not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment to a mental institution, and he was unceremoniously released from jail and back into the streets.
The decision appeared to be a mistake. In a subsequent incident four months later, Taylor was arrested for a different crime, this time in a grocery store parking lot while allegedly driving a stolen Ford F-150 that had been carjacked in September. This time, Taylor faced charges of felony auto theft and was released on a $20,000 bond. However, a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in court.
Taylor is just one of many individuals who have leveraged the excuse of “mental health” as a convenient way to skirt criminal accountability for exceptionally violent crimes. According to a recent study conducted by local news agency WSMV4, the Nashville district attorney’s office and various other agencies—including the public defender’s office—have maintained a growing list of approximately 229 individuals who cannot be criminally prosecuted due to mental health classifications in Nashville.
“Just because someone has committed an offense, does not at all mean they understood what they were doing. That they knew right from wrong,” said Martesha Johnson Moore, the chief public defender in Davidson County.
The system’s failure to prosecute and detain suspects like Taylor has now drawn criticism from all over the country, and has sparked a renewed demand for justice at a time when interracial murder has nationally soared. No voice is more outraged than Ludwig’s own family, who are now demanding a solution to what they call a and her mother and father are now demanding a solution to what they believe is a broken criminal justice system.
“We are frustrated by this…loophole in the system that allows this to happen,” said Matt Ludwig in an interview with WSMV4. “If there is a determination that someone is mentally unwell, then there should be some way to handle that in a manner that won’t allow them to get back onto the street.”
“I don’t know much about the man (Taylor) other than what everyone has heard about him and what has been made public…Our anger is with the system that allowed this to happen,” he continued.
According to reports, the Ludwigs are now pressuring lawmakers to “zero in” on this case. They swore to attend Taylor’s criminal trial until the very end and plan to make it their “life mission” to achieve justice for their daughter.
“We sent our girl into the world to do amazing things…We have to ask, why was this man free?” Said Geri Wainwright, Ludwig’s aunt, in a text message to the New York Post. “What kind of world do we live in where it’s not safe to take a walk near your college dorm in broad daylight? How could someone so carelessly dim the light of a star destined to shine so bright?”
Originally from New Jersey, Jillian Ludwig was described as a young woman with “infinite enthusiasm” by those who knew her. A talented musician with a charitable heart, Ludwig organized fundraisers for the homeless back in her hometown of Wall Township, New Jersey, and fronted the band Arcadia. She played guitar, bass, and sang at venues all around the Garden State. At the time of her victimization, she was attending college in Nashville to pursue a career in music. She was a freshman.
“She chose Nashville because it’s Music City, and Belmont had a great music business program, and she was loving it,” said Jillian’s mother, Jessica Ludwig. “She was really thriving in every way there, and we would talk every day and she would just tell me how happy she was.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to honor Ludwig and assist with the cost of a funeral. A tremendous outpouring of support from the community has already ensured that a total of $137,469 of its original $50,000 goal has been raised at the time of publication.
The tragic killing of White teenager Jillian Ludwig by a suspected Black criminal is just the latest outrage to erupt in a nation long-wracked with racial violence. Earlier in the month, in neighboring Memphis, a doctor working at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital was savagely gunned down in front of his wife and 2-year-old daughter while taking a stroll in the park. Police arrested two Black suspects for the crime and alleged that the victim, Alexander Bulakhov, heroically jumped in to prevent his wife from being killed herself.
Ludwig and Bulakhov’s killings would occur while Tennessee still reeled from the 2022 loss of kindergarten teacher and White mother of two, Eliza Fletcher. The suspect in that case is Black career criminal Cleotha Abston, who is alleged to have abducted and killed Fletcher while out on a morning jog. At the time of Fletcher’s killing, Abston was a free man who was already facing separate rape charges and made headlines when it was discovered that police never made an arrest for that case due to a long delay in the processing of sexual assault kits by investigating bodies.
The bloody and growing list of White victims only multiplies when taken at a national scale. In Las Vegas, a White high school student was allegedly “lynched” by a gang of Black assailants in an alleyway near his school. When police finally made arrests two weeks later, they claimed the incident wasn’t a hate crime, sparking outrage from the greater community. In 2022, White teenager Ethan Liming tragically died after a fight erupted between him and a pack of Black basketball players in Akron, Ohio. Despite overwhelming evidence, a jury found the suspects not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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