CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Within days after being allowed to bond out of jail, a convicted felon is accused in a Charlotte shooting.
Police spent last Saturday night combing Grier Heights for clues after they say 19-year-old Ryan Hopkins shot a man in the neck. It’s a shooting some say a Mecklenburg county judge could have prevented.
Late last year Hopkins plead guilty to felony larceny. He was sentenced to six months probation but was thrown back into jail after being accused of committing the same crime again. But a judge unsecured his bond, meaning after 19 days behind bars, Hopkins walked out with only a promise to appear in court.
Less than two weeks later, police say he shot the man in Grier Heights.
“Basically they're ruling based on their mindset and their beliefs system,” said Marcus Philemon.
Philemon heads up a group of volunteers that tracks repeat offenders like Hopkins and he has picked up on a trend—judges ignoring the bond policy in place since July 2010.
“That’s another thing that we can’t explain or we don’t understand,” he added. “I think a lot of the general public would be appalled that some of these bonds are set as low as they are, which increases a danger to the community.”
NewsChannel 36 spent months going through arrest records and comparing bond amounts and found judges regularly ignoring the 2010 policy.
NewsChannel 36 asked Chief Judge Lisa Bell, who oversees all magistrate judges, about some specific cases.
“There were two different magistrates setting the bond amounts. One has been a magistrate for a couple of years, the other has been a magistrate for quite some time,” she said.
“The typical case, in my opinion, should be within the parameter of the guidelines. Is that what’s happening? I hear anecdotally there are certainly times where it is not being followed,” said district attorney Andrew Murray.
Philemon said ignoring the new bond policy is unacceptable and pointed to Hopkins as the evidence.
“This was sold to create public safety and consistency and we really can’t see where there’s been a whole lot of either,” Philemon added.