‘Sheriff Chronister has his priorities reversed—he arrested a pastor and released a killer…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Florida law enforcement officials arrested a Christian pastor for holding a church service a few weeks ago, but released an imprisoned criminal who reportedly murdered a man the day after being let out.
The criminal, 26-year-old Edward Williams, was re-arrested in Tampa, Florida on Monday and is now facing charges of second-degree murder, gun possession, violently resisting an officer, drug possession and paraphernalia possession, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Williams was released from prison in late March due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus within Florida’s prison system. The release came just six days after he had originally been arrested on suspicion of heroin possession, which is a third-degree felony.
Less than one day after his release, he was involved in a fatal shoot-out in Tampa.
“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 Tuesday, according to NBC News.
While officials were busy releasing “any pretrial detainee for a municipal or county ordinance violation, a misdemeanor offense, a criminal traffic offense, or a third-degree felony offense” in March, they also arrested Pastor Rodney Howard–Browne, who held church services despite the state’s shelter-in-place order.
Howard-Browne, however, has said the services followed the federal government’s social distancing guidelines: hand sanitizer was passed out throughout the church, attendees maintained 6 feet of distance, and socializing was kept to a minimum.
“My heart and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victim murdered by a criminal that [Hillsborough law enforcement] released,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the nonprofit litigation group Liberty Counsel, which was representing Howard–Browne.
“Sheriff Chronister has his priorities reversed—he arrested a pastor and released a killer,” Shaver added. “The people of Hillsborough County deserve much better.”
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has released 164 “non-violent” offenders over the past few months, according to NBC News affiliate WFLA.