LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The bail release of a Louisville activist from jail just two days after he was charged with the attempted murder of mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg has provoked a rising and angry chorus of criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
It's also prompted a staunch defense from those who decided to put up the bail.
Greenberg, in a statement Thursday morning, said the release of Quintez Brown shows that our "criminal justice system is clearly broken."
"It is nearly impossible to believe that someone can attempt murder on Monday and walk out of jail on Wednesday," said Greenberg, who'd previously been hesitant to talk about whether the $100,000 bond amount for Brown was appropriate. "If someone is struggling with a mental illness and is in custody, they should be evaluated and treated in custody.
"Sadly, like others who suffer from a broken system, my team and family have been traumatized again by this news."
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Brown has been charged with attempted murder and four counts of wanton endangerment after Louisville Metro Police officials charged him with firing a gun at Greenberg at the Democratic mayoral candidate's office Monday morning at Butchertown Market. Four other campaign team members were with him in the room.
No one was injured, but a bullet ripped through a sweater Greenberg was wearing.
Brown, a 21-year-old activist and former Courier Journal intern and columnist who had announced an independent run for Metro Council, was taken into custody about 10 minutes after the shooting with a loaded 9mm magazine, along with a handgun, a handgun case and additional magazines, according to his arrest citation.
His lawyer, Rob Eggert, has argued his client suffered "a mental health breakdown and (hadn't) slept for days or weeks," leading up to Monday's shooting. LMPD Chief Erika Shields previously has said the evidence suggests the shooter acted alone.
Shortly after he was jailed, organizers with the Louisville Community Bail Fund announced their intent to bail him out. The group, founded by Black Lives Matter Louisville to post bond for defendants who may not be able to pay it themselves, wrote out a $100,000 bail check Wednesday afternoon.
A flurry of criticism over bail release
The decision quickly drew fire from local and national voices.
Speaking Thursday morning on the U.S. Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who owns a home in Louisville and represents Kentucky in the nation's capital, noted Brown's mental state is still under investigation, along with other aspects of the case.
“But guess what: He’s already been let out of jail. A left-wing bail fund partnered with BLM Louisville to bail him out," McConnell said. “Less than 48 hours after this activist tried to literally murder a politician, the radical left bailed their comrade out of jail.
"It is just jaw-dropping. The innocent people of Louisville deserve better."
McConnell did not immediately respond Thursday when asked what changes he would support to prevent something similar from happening in the future.
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Jason Nemes, a Republican state representative from Louisville, called Brown's release "the last straw."
He said it showed the need for the passage of House Bill 313, legislation being considered by the Kentucky General Assembly that would stop "charitable bail organizations," nonprofits that pay bail for defendants who may be unable to pay themselves, from operating in the commonwealth. And in an interview Thursday with The Courier Journal, Nemes said he planned to file legislation next week that would aim to keep some defendants who may be a danger to the community in jail without bail.
Adam Edelen, a former Democratic candidate for governor who said Greenberg served as the best man at his wedding, also criticized the release.
"There is simply no defense for a would-be assassin to be released on bail, 60 hours after firing on his intended target," Edelen wrote Wednesday night on Twitter.
In several follow-up posts, Edelen agreed with commenters who called for an end to cash bail, reacting at one point to a post from Judge Julie Kaelin which explained in Kentucky, defendants in all cases that do not involve death-eligible crimes are entitled by law to cash bail, which she said favors rich defendants who are able to pay the money themselves.
"The courts need to be able to protect the community. Cash bail does not do that," she wrote on Twitter.
Group defends putting up bail
Chanelle Helm, a Black Lives Matter Louisville cofounder who is involved with the Louisville Community Bail Fund, defended the decision to bail out Brown.
The group knew Brown through his participation in the 2020 protests that rocked Louisville in the aftermath of the police killing of Breonna Taylor and is "concerned for his mental health," she said.
Helm said she and others weren't confident Brown would get the help they say he needs behind bars. Six people have died at Louisville's Metro Corrections jail since November, including three reported suicides.
"Jail," Helm said, "is a final destination for Black folks in this state."
The Louisville Community Bail Fund, which helped hundreds of protesters arrested in 2020 pay their bonds, often helps people find mental health counseling while they await trial.
"They're not done with the case just because they make bail," she said. "In the meantime, jails and prisons do not rehabilitate people. The community's been doing that."
A Friday statement cosigned by eight activist and advocacy organizations, including Black Lives Matter Louisville and the Louisville Community Bail Fund, condemned the shooting and reiterated Brown's need for "direct mental health support."
"As many activists and organizers discover, battling racial trauma as a young person is hard when many of our communities don't know how to practice healing, and this work is difficult," the statement reads, in part.
Related from 2020: Meet the groups bailing out people from the Louisville jail
Greenberg and family to take extra security precautions
Greenberg, who previously said his family and campaign team would take additional safety precautions through the rest of the election season, expressed some empathy for the accused shooter.
"Mr. Brown and his family are hurting. My family and my team are hurting. I pray for everyone involved in this alarming incident," Greenberg said in Thursday's statement.
Statement from Craig Greenberg: pic.twitter.com/eSGcJDCk5B
— Craig Greenberg (@RunWithCraig) February 17, 2022
He pledged, if elected, to commit to public safety and to "lead the effort to invest more in mental health resources in all of our neighborhoods and especially in our jails."
But Greenberg said he believed "the individual responsible for trying to kill me will be prosecuted appropriately."
"Regardless of what leads someone to commit a violent crime, there must be consequences," he added. "Gun violence is unacceptable under any circumstances for any reason anywhere."
Reporter Bailey Loosemore contributed.
Lucas Aulbach can be reached at email@example.com, 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Craig Greenberg rips shooting suspect Quintez Brown's release on bail