March 5, 2024

Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old freshman at Belmont University in Nashville, was jogging in a public park just blocks away from campus on a sunny afternoon last Tuesday when a stray bullet struck her in the head, killing her.

“Her roommate said she had been going [jogging] three to four times a week,” the New Jersey native’s mother, Jessica Thorn Ludwig, told Fox News Digital. “She had pretty recently taken up jogging, running, just for some exercise. It was a healthy habit that she was forming, as ironic as that is.”

Ludwig was running on a track in Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park, just northeast of Belmont’s campus, between classes around 2:20 p.m. on Nov. 7 when she was struck by gunfire that was allegedly intended for another target, according to the Nashville Police Department.

Nashville police arrested repeat offender Shaquille Taylor, 29, in connection with the shooting that left Ludwig initially hospitalized in critical condition before she was pronounced dead on Nov. 8.

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Julia Ludwig poses on a balcony

Jillian Ludwig, 18, was fatally struck by a stray bullet while she was jogging in Nashville on a Tuesday afternoon between classes. (Family handout)

Taylor is currently charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering in connection with the shooting. A judicial commissioner set the suspect’s bond at $280,000.

“It was entirely preventable. And the laws in place failed,” Ludwig’s father, Matt Ludwig, said. 

They protect the criminals and not the innocent victims. 

— Jessica Thorn Ludwig

Thorn Ludwig said she doesn’t want “any other parents to live through this nightmare that we’re going through.”

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“Our lives will never be the same. She had so much to offer this world. She was such a bright light and she was definitely going places and everybody knew it,” she said. “We’ve had so much feedback from the staff and the students at Belmont in the short three months that she was there. No doubt she was going places, and her whole future was robbed due to careless laws.”

The Ludwig family

Ludwig’s family says laws need to change so that repeat offenders who are deemed incompetent to stand trial are not immediately released from custody. (Family handout)

A criminal affidavit states that Taylor was allegedly aiming toward a target named “Lil Greg,” who was driving in the area when the suspect allegedly shot in his direction, where Ludwig was walking at the same time. 

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Taylor apparently fled the scene and returned to his apartment, where he tried to dispose of his gun and told his girlfriend that he had been involved in a shooting, police said in an affidavit. 

Shaquille Taylor mugshot

Shaquille Taylor is currently charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering in connection with the shooting. A judicial commissioner set the suspect’s bond at $280,000. (Nashville PD)

Davidson County records show that Taylor was released after being charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2021 and theft of more than $10,000 in September. The aggravated assault case was dismissed after Taylor was found incompetent to stand trial, according to the Nashville District Attorney’s Office.

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Shayla Workman, one of the victims from the aggravated assault incident in 2021, told WTVF that Taylor shot at her and her two young children while she was driving. 

Jillian Ludwig (left) and Jessica Thorn Ludwig (right)

Jessica Thorn Ludwig said she doesn’t want “any other parents to live through this nightmare that we’re going through.” (Family handout)

At a competency hearing in April, “three court appointed doctors unanimously testified that Mr. Taylor was incompetent to stand trial” due to an intellectual disability and language impairment, DA Glenn Funk said in a statement last week.

READ THE ORDER:

[Tennessee] and Federal law prohibit prosecution of persons found to be incompetent, so therefore Judge Angelita Dalton was mandated to dismiss the case,” Funk said. “Because the doctors did not find Mr. Taylor met the standards for involuntary commitment, he was released from custody on May 19, 2023.”

At least two doctors must have certificates saying a person is “suffering from a severe mental illness or developmental disability that causes the person to be a substantial risk of serious harm to himself or others” in order for that person to remain in custody under Nashville law, Funk said. “The doctors must also find that there are no other less restrictive measures than commitment.”

Jillian Ludwig playing the guitar

A criminal affidavit states that Taylor was allegedly aiming toward a target named “Lil Greg,” who was driving in the area when the suspect allegedly shot in his direction, where Ludwig was walking at the same time.  (Family handout)

The DA added that the “law must be altered to accurately balance individual needs with public safety,” and “Tennessee must provide more beds and staffing resources to handle dangerous individuals.”

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Ludwig’s parents said that while she had always done well in school, she was most passionate about playing and studying music. The 18-year-old was a talented guitarist and singer pursuing a future and career in music in the Music City.

Jillian Ludwig playing the guitar

Ludwig’s parents said that while she had always done well in school, she was most passionate about playing and studying music. The 18-year-old was a talented guitarist and singer pursuing a future and career in music in the Music City.  (Family handout)

“She had so much potential and made such an impact on so many. And we just want people to remember her for the beautiful soul that she was and not the atrocity that took her life,” Thorn Ludwig said.

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Matthew Ludwig said that until laws change, “this could happen to anyone.”

“The individual that shot Jillian is not the only person that fell through this loophole in the system,” he said. “So there are others out there that can cause harm.”

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