TAMPA, FL — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 26-year-old man accused of committing a fatal shooting the day after he was released from jail in an effort by the sheriff’s office to reduce the inmate population to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
On Friday, March 20, at 10:40 p.m., the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office received several 911 calls about gunshots being fired in the area of 81st Street South and Ash Avenue.
When deputies arrived in the 8000 block of Ash Avenue, they discovered a man with a gunshot wound. He was transported to Tampa General Hospital where, despite life-saving measures, he died.
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Following an investigation, detectives connected Joseph Edward Williams to the shooting and charged him Tuesday with second-degree murder, resisting an officer with violence, felon in possession of a firearm, possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Williams was originally booked into the Orient Road Jail on March 13 for possession of heroin (less than 4 grams), a third-degree felony, and possession drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor.
On March 19, he was among 100 inmates released by the sheriff’s office pending their trial dates to reduce the jail population and prevent the spread of the coronavirus to inmates and deputies.
See related story: Sheriff Releases Nonviolent Inmates To Reduce Coronavirus Spread
Detectives said he was involved in the fatal shooting the day after his release.
“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,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “As a result, I call on the state attorney to prosecute this defendant to the fullest extent of the law. 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.”
Nevertheless, Chronister defended his decision to release the 100 inmates, noting that Williams was already eligible for release on a $2,500 bond.
“Judges, prosecutors and sheriffs around the country are facing difficult decisions during this health crisis with respect to balancing public health and public safety,” Chronister said. “Sheriffs in Florida and throughout our country have released non-violent, 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.”
The sheriff’s office said Williams has a long criminal history.
He was previously convicted of two felony offenses including burglary of an unoccupied conveyance in 2012 and felon in possession of a firearm in 2018 along with five misdemeanor convictions. In total, Williams has been arrested on 35 charges.
He is currently in jail on no bond.