NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A student at Belmont University in Nashville has died after being shot in the head while walking through one of the city’s parks earlier this week, according to authorities.
The Metro Nashville Police Department said the student, identified as 18-year-old Jillian Ludwig from New Jersey, was hit by a bullet while she was walking on the track in Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park.
Officers were first called to the park just after 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday to respond to a report of a person lying on the track. Upon arrival, officers found the 18-year-old suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.
Authorities said Ludwig was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where she was in “extremely critical condition” through Wednesday.
Authorities said Thursday that Ludwig had died overnight.
In a statement issued before her passing, Belmont University President Dr. Greg Jones said Ludwig was a freshman at the university and known for her love of music:
I am writing today with devastating news that Jillian Ludwig, a Belmont freshman, is in critical condition after sustaining injuries from a stray gunshot while she was walking on the track in the Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park.
Jillian is an engaged member of our community who is known for her love of music and its incredible power. A music business major and bass player, she is often found at concerts, cheering on fellow musicians and using music as a way to connect with those around her. Jillian is also an avid runner who enjoys being outside.
I want to encourage you to take advantage of the resources we have available on campus that provide support in times of grief and pain. I will be convening a Prayer Service at noon at the Bell Tower for our entire community to pray for Jillian and her family.Dr. Greg Jones
Investigators said the gunfire came from public housing across the street. The shooting was reportedly captured by the property’s surveillance cameras.
In an arrest report, officers stated that the footage showed a man wearing a yellow shirt, jeans and red shoes fire multiple shots toward a dark sedan shortly before 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
At the same time, Ludwig was reportedly seen walking in the park on the opposite side of the street the sedan was traveling on, and subsequently falling down after being struck by a bullet allegedly fired by the suspect. Metro police said she laid on the ground until she was found by a passerby about an hour after the shots were fired.
A witness also told officers that she saw the suspect, later identified as 29-year-old Shaquille Taylor, enter a housing unit after the shots were fired, according to an arrest report. Metro police said they took Taylor into custody as he was walking out of an Edgehill Homes apartment just before 10 p.m. Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Metro police announced that Taylor was taken into custody and charged with aggravated assault and evidence tampering.
Authorities reported that Taylor admitted to firing the shots toward a vehicle and giving the gun to another person during a police interview.
Following Tuesday’s shooting, Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said Taylor had previously faced three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon related to an incident in August 2021, but ultimately was not prosecuted as he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. Funk also said Taylor could not be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, as doctors did not find he met the standards.
“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,” Funk said.
Officials say Taylor was last arrested on Sept. 21, 2023, in a grocery store parking lot while driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck that had been carjacked on Sept. 16 by two men in ski masks in Nashville.
Even though Taylor did not admit to being involved in the carjacking, police said he was charged with felony auto theft and released on a $20,000 bond. However, Taylor failed to appear in court for that charge on Friday, Nov. 3, so the court issued a warrant for failure to appear.
As of Wednesday morning, Taylor remains jailed on a $280,000 bond.
Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell issued a statement prior to Ludwig’s passing on Wednesday afternoon showing his support for the shooting victim, her loved ones, and the Belmont University community as a whole.
“My heart aches today for Jillian Ludwig, her family, and the entire Belmont community. Once again, we grieve senseless gun violence,” O’Connell said.
He also used his statement to take a stance on what he described as a flaw in the legal system.
“Doctors have previously deemed the suspected shooter to be incompetent to stand trial. Unfortunately, our criminal legal system and limited mental health access left a dangerous individual both untreated and legally armed,” he said. “Tennessee needs more beds for individuals experiencing mental health crises and a renewed conversation about how we limit access to firearms for individuals we know are a threat to the community.”
Nexstar’s WKRN also received a statement from Tennessee House Majority Leader William Lamberth.
“This is a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided if this person had been committed for proper mental health treatment and supervision,” Lamberth said. “Under no circumstances should someone who has been declared incompetent to stand trial have access to any type of deadly weapon. We will be working to restructure our laws this coming session to protect innocent lives and create additional layers of public safety in critical times when it is needed most.”