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Kalamazoo police: Low bonds for criminals adding to city's violence issue, putting felons back on street

Kalamazoo County District Court - Michigan Avenue
Posted at 5:08 PM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-11 11:38:04-05

Correction: The bond referenced in the video for Liggins was a surety bond, not a personal reconnaissance bond.

New information from Kalamazoo police is linking increased violent crime in the city to repeat offenders and low bonds.

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said one recent case really underscores the problem.

Investigators said a random shooting involving eight victims just happened in October, and the suspect spent less than 24 hours in jail.

That's after being charged with eight counts of assault with intent to murder and eight weapons charges.

Investigators said instances like the one detailed above are putting the public in danger.

"Here we have an incident where eight young men were targeted by a stranger, a person that they didn’t even know," said Capt. Craig Habel with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety's Criminal Investigations Division.

It all unfolded on Oct. 2, 2021 when eight men ranging from 18 to 25 were leaving Deja Vu Showgirls on Ravine Road.

Investigators said a man, later identified as Joshua Antwan Liggins, exchanged words with the group in the parking lot of the establishment. Following that conversation, Liggins reportedly grabbed a handgun from his vehicle and shot at them as they pulled away. Two people were injured.

"The prosecutor’s office asked for a $1 million bond due to the severity of the incident. Liggins did less than 24 hours in jail and was released. The judge did not go with the bond recommendation," said Captain Habel. "It is a huge problem here in Kalamazoo County. We actually pulled some of the numbers a few weeks ago where the judges that set the bond, the district court judges, they were only following, when indeed the prosecutor’s office asked for a recommendation, they were only following it 10% of the time. It’s about 10% of the suspects doing 90% of the crime."

Courtesy: Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety
Courtesy: Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety

Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting said Michigan Court Rules provide judges with a great amount of discretion in setting bonds, but there could be differences between jurisdictions, even judges in the same jurisdiction.

"In general, bonds are typically higher for persons charged with more serious crimes and for persons with a history of failing to appear in Court, but those are only two of the factors that the Court Rules list for the Judge to consider.”

"We’ve always been told the law is not punitive. We have heard that from judges saying they can’t be punitive, but you can use bond to protect the citizens. I think we are to that point. That is all we are trying to do is protect the citizens of Kalamazoo," said Captain Habel.

In this specific case, victims as well as their families and the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office filed a motion to increase the bond set for Liggins.

Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting released another statement commenting on the case.

“The setting of a bond in a criminal case is a decision made by the Court. The Kalamazoo County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was concerned by the bond that was originally set by the arraigning Judge in this case. Because of the serious nature of the charges issued, multiple counts of both Assault With Intent to Murder and Felony Firearm, we believed that the bond should be increased in order to provide greater protection to the public during the pendency of the case.  The victim’s and their families share that belief.  A Motion to Amend the defendant’s bond was filed in Eighth District Court and reviewed by the Chief Judge of the Court. After review he denied the Motion for the reasons that are set forth in his Order.”

"This is you or me could be going to the store, and this could happen to us or our kids. This is really important, I think, that people be given hefty bonds to protect the community in this type of incident," said Captain Habel.

The judge denied the initial request for an increase of bond for Joshua Liggins.

FOX 17 put in a request for court documents that could detail why that decision was made, but has not received them yet.

His probable cause hearing is set for Jan. 10, 2022 at 1:30 p.m.

READ MORE: K-9 Murphy credited for helping capture an armed robbery suspect in Kalamazoo

*A previous version of this article quoted Captain Habel as saying Liggins received a $20,000 pr bond, however the judge ordered a $20,000 cash surety bond. We removed the part of Capt. Habel's quote with the inaccurate information.

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