Felon Freed So He Wouldn't Get Virus Arrested For Murder The Next Day
Tampa, FL – A Florida inmate who was released from jail due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 allegedly murdered someone one day after he was turned loose.
Joseph Edwards Williams, 26, had been arrested on March 13 for possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia, WFLA reported.
Williams was released from the Hillsborough County Jail at 8:02 a.m. on March 19, in accordance with an administrative order aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus inside jail facilities.
Despite the fact that he is a convicted felon with over 35 prior arrests, Williams was one of 164 inmates allowed to walk free under the directive.
At approximately 10:40 p.m. on March 20, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) began receiving multiple 911 calls regarding gunfire in the area of Ash Avenue and 81st Street South, WFLA reported.
They arrived to discover that a man at that location had been fatally shot. His killer had fled the scene.
Investigators identified Williams as the gunman, and arrested him in Gibsonton on Monday night, WFLA reported.
“There is no question Joseph Williams took advantage of this health emergency to commit crimes while he was out of jail awaiting resolution of a low-level, non-violent offense,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement to WFLA. “As a result, I call on the State Attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law.”
Williams has been charged with violently resisting an officer, second-degree murder, drug possession, paraphernalia possession, and gun possession, NBC News reported.
“Every murder, every violent crime, especially those involving a gun, is a sickening example of the worst in our community, especially at a time when our community is working relentlessly to fight against the spread of this deadly COVID-19,” Sheriff Chronister told WFLA.
Sheriff Chronister had previously defended the mass release during a press conference on March 19.
“We want to protect our employees here. We want to protect the remainder of the jail population,” he said at the time. “We also feel these low-level, non-violent offenders will be better-served [at] home, with their families.”
Judges, prosecutors and sheriffs throughout the United States have been left to face “difficult decisions” during the pandemic “with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” he told WFLA.
“Our commitment as an agency is to keep this community safe and enforce the law,” Sheriff Chronister said.