Dylan McGinnis and his mother, Nikki Sterling, celebrate his birthday in Arizona, just weeks before was fatally shot. Submitted photo
Dylan McGinnis and his mother, Nikki Sterling, celebrate his birthday in Arizona, just weeks before was fatally shot. Submitted photo
It’s the phone call no mother wants to receive.

Nikki Sterling’s 24-year-old son, Dylan McGinnis, had been shot and killed in Indianapolis on Oct. 1.

Born and raised in Thorntown, Sterling’s family still resides in Boone and Hamilton counties, though she now lives in Arizona. McGinnis stayed in Indianapolis when his mother moved.

“Dylan was a happy-go-lucky kid growing up,” Sterling said. "He had a lot of friends and loved spending time with family. In fact, just the weekend before, he was visiting my parents in Thorntown for the Festival of Turning Leaves. He just didn’t know a stranger."

As an aspiring electrician, he had committed to work with his father in the electrical business and had just returned from a visit with his mother for his 24th birthday.

“He had been helping a friend with a substance abuse addiction. Her car was broken down and she asked him to give her a ride," Sterling said. "Dylan does not do drugs and showed no drugs in his system in the coroner’s report but he was trying to help her, and even let her drive his car to this location.”

She believes he had no idea where he was going that night and certainly didn’t anticipate the danger he was in.

The friend began arguing with the alleged shooter, Travis Lang, 23, and kicked him out of the car. Lang allegedly turned and fired nine bullets into the car on McGinnis’ side, injuring the young woman and killing McGinnis.

“It was over $20,” Sterling said. “She had her phone recording the conversation and you can even hear Dylan apologizing for the argument and trying to diffuse the situation.”

With their minds still reeling from the sudden loss of their son and the funeral in Indianapolis, Sterling returned to Arizona and began asking questions.

“We got a phone call and was told the shooter had three pending felonies and had been bailed out on a $5,000 bond through this charitable bail organization," Sterling said. "My husband and I started looking into it and learned about The Bail Project.”

Attempts to contact The Bail Project by the The Lebanon Reporter went unanswered, but according to its website, the non-profit organization hopes to combat mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system. Cash bail systems have long been a topic of debate.

Often, economic resources or lack of family support can place an accused person in jail for long periods of time, simply because they don’t have the funds to bail themselves out. According to the end result, the accused then faces job loss, custody issues with children, and financial debt, among other issues.

The problem, according to Sterling and others, is that the organization has taken things too far.

“Their motto is ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ They aren’t bailing out shoplifters that need food. They’re bailing out violent offenders and they take no accountability to the release and oversight through the legal process," Sterling said. "There is no reason why my son had to die.”

Consider a domestic violence situation, drug-related situation or gang-related situation that could potentially de-escalate with jail time. Releasing accused offenders within hours of their arrest could lead to further violence.

Marcus Garvin, 33, was charged in a stabbing incident last December at an Indianapolis Circle K gas station, bonded out by The Bail Project, and then subsequently cut off his ankle monitor and murdered girlfriend Christie Holt less than six months later.

Before being bailed out by The Bail Project, Lang was sitting in jail earlier this year on charges stemming from cocaine possession and had three pending felony charges for breaking and entering, resisting law enforcement, and burglary.

“My husband and I are working with state legislators right now and we’re speaking with senators," Sterling said. "Our goal is that a bill that had previously been presented to the House in 2020 will be back up in 2022 for a vote. We want charitable bail organizations to be regulated, prohibit them from positing bond for offenders with felony charges, and impose a $2,000 bond cap on misdemeanors. We want to get this passed so we can prevent this from happening to someone else. I don’t want another mother to get this call.”

Indiana Senator Mike Braun agrees.

Tthe Marion County Superior Court just recently announced they would end their support of The Bail Project. The Central Indiana Community Foundation has been using tax dollars to fund The Bail Project since 2013, so with financial support on hold, the organization will have to hold as well.

“It’s good news for Indy that The Bail Project will no longer be able to release criminals from jail without accountability, but this is only the tip of the iceberg for soft-on-crime activist organizations,” Braun said in a recent press release.

As for Sterling, she and her family are left to deal with the aftermath of losing their son.

“I haven’t been able to reconcile this. It’s still a shock,” Sterling said. “He was so innocent and it was a violent death. Dylan was my first born. He spent so much time with his father and their family, my parents, his brother and my husband and I. We’re absolutely broken.”

Sterling says the best thing others can do is spread awareness. Like many, she had never heard of The Bail Project or similar organizations.

“You believe if someone is violent, they are off the street and sitting in jail," she said. "My son had nothing to do with the shooter and Dylan has been robbed of his future and our family has been robbed.”

Lang is now facing murder and attempted murder charges. His trial is scheduled for March 2022.
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