CHICAGO — When the COVID pandemic arrived three years ago, officials released nearly a quarter of the Cook County jail’s inmates in the hopes of controlling the virus outbreak.
Of those released on reduced or no bonds to protect them from death by COVID, at least 18 were murdered before their pending criminal cases were resolved, a CWBChicago review of records found last year. And a few have been accused of murdering others after being released, including one charged on Friday.
His name is Joshua Dawson. Dawson was on parole for being a felon in possession of a firearm when police arrested him in 2019 for possessing yet another gun in Chicago. A judge initially held him without bail. But that changed when COVID arrived.
On March 27, 2020, Judge Steven Watkins released Dawson on his own recognizance with electronic monitoring, according to court records. He went AWOL about four months later and wasn’t seen by authorities again for a year. In the interim, prosecutors said Friday, he murdered a man in Metcalfe Park, 4210 South State.
Witnesses allegedly saw Dawson and an accomplice follow 29-year-old Darron Protho into the park around 7 a.m. on July 13, 2021. The men caught up with Protho, and Dawson shot him in the head, prosecutor Anne McCord alleged Friday. She said Protho fell to the ground, and Dawson shot him again in the chest before running from the park with his accomplice.
Surveillance video showed Dawson holding a gun as he fled the scene, McCord said. Two law enforcement officers identified him from the footage and witnesses said he was the shooter.
A month later, investigators caught up with Dawson. Court records show that he was charged with escape from electronic monitoring, although the case was dropped in a plea deal that landed him a five-year sentence for the underlying gun charge. It is not clear why murder charges have not been filed until now.
Dawson’s defense attorney on Friday said Dawson, who’s about to turn 31, has two children and works as a store cashier and stocker.
Judge Susana Ortiz ordered him held without bail.
He is the 77th person accused of killing or trying to kill someone in Chicago in 2021 while on felony bail. The cases involve at least 114 victims, 33 of whom died.
The “not horrible” series
This report continues our coverage of individuals accused of murder, attempted murder, or shooting firearms toward people while on bond for a pending felony case. CWBChicago began our series of reports in November 2019 after Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans publicly stated, “We haven’t had any horrible incidents occur” under the court’s bond reform initiative.
The actual number of murders and shootings committed by people on felony bail is undoubtedly much higher than the numbers seen here. Since 2017, CPD has made arrests in less than 5% of non-fatal shootings and 33% of murders, according to the city’s data. You can support CWBChicago’s work by becoming a subscriber today.