At November 9, 2023's media roundtable, Mayor O’Connell revealed that the same “loophole” that allowed the Belmont shooting suspect, Shaquille Taylor, back on the streets could take him off the hook for the murder of Jillian Ludwig.
"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 in a place where they can be on the streets untreated and armed. And so we do seem to have a loophole there,” O’Connell told one reporter. “Because my fear right now today is, even with a murder charge and we don't know this in advance—but I have seen the statement from District Attorney General Glenn Funk's office about this, and I suspect that if there were a murder charge for the same suspect it could be possible that that would be dismissed."
CRIMINAL AND MENTAL HEALTH BACKGROUND
NewsChannel5 obtained Taylor’s criminal record, which showed repeat offenses dating back to 2011, including robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and auto theft. His mental health history showed the same consistency. In 2010, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities deemed Taylor "incompetent and not restorable" due to infant pneumonia that led to a brain infection. More recently, according to News5, “three court-appointed psychologists deemed him incompetent to stand trial.”
Shaquille Taylor is currently in police custody and it is unclear how he obtained the weapon used in Tuesday’s tragedy. On Wednesday, MNPD released a statement indicating they don’t currently have the firearm: “[Taylor] claimed to have given the gun involved to another person.” Since current policy has deemed Taylor too sane for involuntary confinement but too incompetent for the courtroom, we asked Mayor O’Connell about immediate solutions to ensure the safety of Nashvillians. His focus? Firearms.
"This is a place in the law where my contention would be this, like the Waffle House shooter, like the Covenant shooter, these are scenarios where these are people that clearly should not have had legal easy access to firearms, especially in the moments in the process leading up to those crimes.”
When we pressed him on the fact that Taylor was allowed back on the streets, O’Connell said:
So, I do think there is a lot that could be discussed about overall mental health capacity, both for beds and available facilities….The difficult scenario here is this is somebody who was simultaneously incompetent to stand trial, but did not meet the test for involuntary commitment. I think that's a case that is very difficult, because it's still somebody who was clearly in need of either long term access to treatment, or possibly, long term access to far more than just an unsupportive civilian life.
RECENT PROTESTS AND OTHER SAFETY CONCERNS
Of course, this nightmare scenario which led to the death of a young Belmont student has added to growing safety concerns in Nashville. “It is the top job of the mayor to keep Nashville safe,” said O’Connell. “We've already made sure, for instance, that Belmont’s on-campus security team is directly connected to Metro Nashville Police Department.”
The mayor continued on, citing the recent protests in downtown Nashville. “Similarly, we have done something like that prior to the release of our resource guide for the conflict in Israel and Palestine, where we have worked on a specific strategic safety plan for institutions where we've seen an increase in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism locally.”
When asked about the anti-white rhetoric expressed in the recently leaked pages of the Covenant manifesto, the mayor had this to say: “This Mayor's office, and I know leadership across Metro, simply isn't going to tolerate hate rhetoric, hate speech….We want people to live in the city, free of harassment for whatever reason, whether it is their choice of faith, whether it was their race or ethnicity. We're here to support Nashvillians.”