Speaker Sexton argues Tennessee Senate to blame in Belmont student’s death

House Speaker Cameron Sexton claimed state senators wouldn’t pass laws to tie up a legal loophole that could have saved the student’s life.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 3:55 PM CST
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – In a recent talk show radio interview, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton blamed Tennessee senators for not passing laws that could have helped keep a violent criminal off the streets and prevented the death of a Belmont University student.

Sexton joined Matt Murphy on WWTN-FM in the wake of the death of 18-year-old Jillian Ludwig, who was shot in the head while walking in a park near campus, to discuss why her alleged killer was able to walk after being charged with violent offenses in the past.

Shaquille Taylor is a repeat, violent offender, according to court records, but due to a loophole in the law, he has repeatedly had charges dropped after doctors deemed him incompetent to stand trial. In April, the Nashville District Attorney’s Office prosecuted the 29-year-old on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge. At a competency hearing, three doctors unanimously testified that Taylor was incompetent to stand trial, Funk said, adding Taylor did not meet standards for involuntary commitment to a mental facility.

Taylor had most recently been arrested in September when he was accused of carjacking someone in a grocery store parking lot. During the interview with Murphy, Sexton said the House was working on legislation to combat the incompetency loophole earlier this year during Gov. Bill Lee’s special session on public safety, but the Senate said solutions were limited.

“We were working to address that language when we came back for the second week special session,” Sexton said. “The frustrating part is only for the Senate to say there’s nothing that we can do. And if we would have passed this bill, Matt, in special session, with the changes that (District Attorney Glenn Funk) was proposing, this individual in September would have probably been involuntarily committed, and this incident never would have happened.”

The special session on public ended without any substantial change in laws to reduce gun violence in the wake of the shooting at the Covenant School, where three students and three staff members were killed in March. After the special session, parents grieving the tragedy were critical of lawmakers, in particular Republicans who shot down several gun reform proposals aimed at preventing another mass shooting and loss of innocent lives.

In the interview, Sexton again pointed fingers at Democrats when asked about how Taylor could have gotten the gun used in the shooting that killed Ludwig.

“They want to make it about the gun,” Sexton said. “You have soft on crime groups with soft Democrats who want to protect the criminal and not the victim. We’re starting to try to change that. But this is what happens. When you listen to people about being more protective of a criminal than a victim. We’re going to continue to work with the DAs and judges and law enforcement to fix this. Because this should have never happened. The female that passed away should be alive today.”

WSMV4 has dug into Taylor’s criminal past. Here’s what we’ve found: