Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The state's probation agency says it was working to put the man accused of shooting an innocent USC freshman back in jail when the incident happened.
Michael Juan Smith, 20, is accused of shooting 18-year-old Martha Childress in Five Points over the weekend. Previous Coverage: USC Student Shot | Shooting Victim's Uncle Speaks Out | USC Student Shot in Five Points
According to police, Smith was shooting at others but a bullet hit Childress instead as she waited for a cab.
According to the state Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services, Smith was on probation for a 2010 burglary. Agency spokesman Peter O'Boyle says that was normal for a first offense, saying the crime was considered non-violent.
However, while out on probation, O'Boyle says Smith committed technical violation of his probation by failing to meet with his probation agent, not paying fees, and not doing his community service. He says they went before a judge and Smith was sent to jail.
After getting out, he says Smith committed a second burglary and was again given probation.
O'Boyle says the department was working to gather information to go to a judge to ask that probation be revoked when the Five Points incident took place.
"We can't do that on our own, we have to get a judge, we have to go in. everyone's entitled to a hearing, the fourth amendment says you're innocent until proven guilty, we have to have due process. And so we have to prove to a judge that anybody has violated their probation. That's what we were doing and eventually would have done if this case hadn't unfortunate incident hadn't happened over the weekend," said O'Boyle.
Now city and state election officials are calling out the judicial system for its role in the revolving door.
"There are some problematic patterns coming out of certain courtrooms," said Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan. "We've got to stop coddling criminals and they have got to understand that there is accountability. That they have to submit to authority."
A bipartisan group of local leaders met at the state house Wednesday to call for some changes to stop repeat violent offenders after several high profile cases like Smith's and the case involving Kelly Hunnewell, a mother of four who was shot and killed while working in a bakery.
"The police, all they can do is arrest somebody that's committed a crime. It's up to the judges and the prosecutors to make sure those individuals who committed those crimes are in jail and unfortunately what's been happening is repeat violent offenders have been getting out on bond or have been given probation," said Lexington Representative Rick Quinn.
The Senate has already passed a bill aimed changing at the rules of revoking bond, but that legislation must still clear to the House.
Quinn says lawmakers need to tighten up judicial discretion in allowing violent criminals back onto the streets, and take a closer look at who is on the bench.
"I hate to say this, we're gonna have to go through every single judge's record and start holding them accountable, said Quinn. "Obviously there are some tough choices judges have to make, but if you let somebody out 14 times for violent crimes and that person goes on to kill somebody maybe you shouldn't have you job anymore."
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called for lawmakers to take a look at the suggestions that will come from his task force set up to address issues surrounding violent criminals.
"Take up some of the recommendations from the mayor's task force on violent crime and bond reform and let's keep violent repeat offenders behind bars and take them off the streets of our cities," said Benjamin. He says the group will have its final meeting October 29.