Florida Inmate Freed from Jail for COVID-19 Precautions Allegedly Murdered Someone the Next Day

A Florida man is back behind bars after allegedly killing someone one day after he was released from jail.

Authorities arrested 26-year-old Joseph Edward Williams on March 20 in Tampa, Florida, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. He was one of more than 100 inmates that had been released from the jail on March 19 to help mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Williams was previously arrested on March 13 and charged with possession of heroin (less than four grams), a third-degree felony and possession of drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor. He had been eligible for release prior to the public health administrative order and had a bond of $2,500.

He is now facing a second-degree murder charge, as well as resisting an officer with violence, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.

“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, nonviolent offense,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister in a statement. “As a result, I call on the State Attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law.”

Chronister added: “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.”

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The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office noted that Williams has previously been arrested for 35 charges in total. He was convicted of two felony offenses including burglary of an unoccupied conveyance in 2012, and felon in possession of a firearm in 2018.

According to the Administrative Order S-2020-021 (which was updated on March 26), sheriffs are authorized to “use his or her discretion in releasing only such eligible pretrial detainees … who are believed to not pose a threat to the safety of the citizens of Hillsborough County, Florida.”

“Judges, prosecutors, and sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” said Chronister. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released nonviolent, low-level offenders to protect our deputies and the jail population from an outbreak.”

“Our commitment as an agency is to keep this community safe and enforce the law,” he continued.

Williams appeared in court virtually on Tuesday, according to WFLA, and is now being held on bonds worth more than $250,000.

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