FREE TO KILL: Tucson Police Chief concerned ‘spontaneous violence’ at all-time high
Violent felon released months before road rage killing
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Pima County Supervisors are wanting to take a harder look at whether the current pre-trial court system is working.
That’s understandable, because this issue is literally a matter of life and death.
And a new crime trend in Tucson could send the killing count even higher. Road rage, investigators say, is the motive behind this criminal’s murder charge.
Justin Nichols, many would argue, should have been sitting in jail awaiting trial. Nichols has a violent criminal past, but had been released from jail making him free to kill.
It’s cases like this that have Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar very concerned. He says “spontaneous” violence, like road rage, is at an all time high.
“It used to be that you had some kind of interconnection to somebody when there was a homicide and that’s no longer the case. That number is now below 50%,” said Kasmar.
Kasmar reports 26 cases spontaneous violence in 2021.
“Some of those cases were road rage where a normal altercation, physical altercation turned into the use of a firearm to commit homicide,” Kasmar explained.
Nichols is among those spontaneous violence cases.
Looking over Nichols’ criminal records in Tucson one would question how this violent felon escaped jail. In December 2020, Nichols fires a shotgun during an altercation with a woman. He’s arrested, misses his arraignment in February, and an arrest warrant is issued.
Three months later, he’s arrested again, charged with domestic violence in Marana. Pre-trial services recommends he’s release on recognizance. The judge on the case releases him to Pre-trial services. He misses his arraignment and another arrest warrant is issued.
Then five months later, police say Nichols kills a woman, he didn’t know, in a drive-by shooting.
The woman had an infant in her car.
Kasmar believes something has change because the current system is not working.
“Our staff is having to have contact with criminals four or five times before there different decisions and outcomes within the judicial process,” he said, “So I think we have to all continue to dissect these issues to better understand how we create systems that give us different outcomes”
The County Attorney is preparing a proposal to change the system that she plans to present to the board at the next board meeting.
Meantime, we’ll continue our investigation, “Free to Kill,” in the coming weeks.
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