jillian ludwig
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department

An 18-year-old first-year student at a Christian college in Nashville was fatally struck by a stray bullet shot from a gun wielded by a recently released criminal. Jillian Ludwig was rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center after she was discovered lying on the ground at Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park around 3:30 p.m.

According to The Tennessean, Ludwig was on a walk when she was shot in the head. Belmont University President Greg Jones wrote in a campus-wide email, “This is a lot for us all to process. We grapple now with grief, anger, anxiety, and a strong sense of fear in the face of senseless violence.” Jones reiterated his message in a story shared during a midweek prayer service.

He said, “In closing, I would repeat the words spoken at our prayer service Wednesday, a lament from a man who lost his son and was wrestling with great grief: “My wounds are an unanswered question. The wounds of humanity are an unanswered question.” Today, we too must sit with the unanswered questions — I pray you will do so with others in this community and that together we can bring comfort to one another.”

As for the alleged attacker, 29-year-old Shaquille Taylor has been arrested and charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering after an unnamed informant, video footage, and his alleged confession connected him to the shooting. According to police investigators, it appears Taylor was shooting at a nearby vehicle when the bullet hit Ludwig. Regarding his criminal history, according to the Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk, Taylor was charged in April with aggravated assault. However, he was ultimately found to be incompetent to stand trial by three doctors.

To be involuntarily committed, a person must be found by two doctors to suffer from a severe mental illness that causes that person to be at substantial risk of serious harm to themselves or others. There must also be no other less restrictive measures than commitment.

According to the Associated Press, Funk is now calling on lawmakers in the state to make it less complicated to commit someone like Taylor to a mental institution. He said, “This nearly impossible standard impacts public safety. The law must be altered to accurately balance individual needs with public safety. At the same time, Tennessee must provide more beds and staffing resources to handle dangerous individuals.”

Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell called for a renewed conversation about limiting gun access for people known to be a threat to the community. In a statement, O’Connell said, “Today, I recommitted to our participation in Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and I look forward to working with both local and state leaders to make progress on this issue. But we know that this risk will recur unless we act to close holes in our criminal legal process regarding both urgent mental health needs and firearms access.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ludwig was a graduate of Wall High School and lived in Belmar, New Jersey. Belmont University President Greg Jones described her as a music business major and bass player who “is often found at concerts, cheering on fellow musicians and using music as a way to connect with those around her.” Please keep Jillian Ludwig’s friends and family in your prayers during this challenging time.

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