Gov. Abbott to make bail reform ’emergency item’ after another killing by suspect out on bond

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday pledged to make bail reform a top priority for his administration after another suspect out on bond allegedly murdered someone.

Abbott’s comments came after 39-year-old murder suspect Danny Cazares shot and killed another man at the city aquarium in Houston while wounding his wife Thursday evening before turning his gun on himself.

Police noted in the days after the shooting that Cazares was out on bond after being arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Fox 26.

Cazares was out on bond in October 2020 after being arrested on charges he damaged a hotel room, the Houston-based outlet reported. And in a third instance, Cazares was allowed to bond out after being arrested for criminal trespassing at a fire station, Fox 26 added.

Authorities in Harris County, which includes Houston, have been increasingly concerned over circumstances that had led to Cazares being repeatedly able to bond out of jail on at least three prior instances. The Houston Chronicle published a report last week that said murders and other killings linked to suspects who made bail and were out on the streets after being arrested for serious crimes have created a court system crisis.

The situation has also alarmed the state’s GOP governor.

“Killings by criminals out on bond skyrocket in Houston. That’s why I made bail bond reform an emergency item. In 2020, 18,796 defendants were charged with new crimes while out on bond. Texans would be alive today if stricter Bail Bond laws existed.,” Abbott wrote on Twitter on Saturday, in response to the Houston newspaper’s report.

“Like it or not, we are in the midst of a bond pandemic in the state of Texas,” Andy Kahan, a victims’ advocate for Crime Stoppers of Houston, added in response.

In an interview Saturday evening with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro, Kahan discussed another case involving a defendant who had been released on bond seven times and allegedly committed a horrific murder while out.

He said as of the time of his interview, suspect Zacchaeus Gaston, 27, was still free after he was accused of killing a young mother from the city.

There are literally dozens of other cases, the paper reported.

In May 2020, a driver was killed by a pair of men out on bond when they followed him after he cashed his paycheck. The shooter was released on bond after previously being arrested on charges of aggravated robbery and for illegal possession and use of a weapon, the Chronicle noted.

Last year, some 19,000 defendants had been charged with new crimes including misdemeanors and felonies after they’d been released on bond, a figure that was triple the number since 2015, according to the paper. And many of those cases, the Chronicle added, were murders.

More than 63,000 people charged with crimes and released on bond have incurred new charges, according to the report, citing information from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Harris County District Clerk’s Office, and Harris County Pre-Trial Services.

Police officers and criminologists interviewed by the paper for the story cited Hurricane Harvey in 2017 as creating a backlog in courts and the 2020 pandemic as being responsible for an uptick in violent crime as many dangerous suspects were released from prison.

Federal and states standards that prohibit excessive bond and bail costs have also led to the releases, the paper said.

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Jon Dougherty

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