‘Big John’ killed in the line of duty

BY BRUCE BRANUM

The Greenville Standard

 

Lowndes County Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams was shot and killed this past Saturday night while in the line of duty by William Chase Johnson, age 18.

The shooting happened shortly after 8 p.m. at a QV convenience store at the intersection of Highway 21 and Highway 97 in Hayneville in Lowndes County.

Williams had responded to a call from the store owner which concerned a large crowd that had gathered in the store’s parking lot.

Law enforcement sources and witnesses said Williams approached the truck Johnson was driving and asked him why his music was so loud.

That’s when allegedly Johnson shot Williams once in the head.

Johnson then left the scene and the Alabama Sheriff’s Association put out a call for all possible assistance and sheriffs from around the state made their way to Hayneville.

Williams’ death was confirmed by Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham about 8:15 p.m.

Just after midnight, Johnson returned to the crime scene and surrendered himself and the suspected weapon said authorities

Johnson is being held at the Elmore County Jail. He has been charged with murder, according to Elmore jail records.

Johnson is from Montgomery and the son of a law enforcement officer, according to reports.

Gov. Kay Ivey said in a press release Saturday night “I’m saddened to hear about Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams, who was tragically killed this evening in the line of duty.

“Through his service to our country in the United States Marine Corps and his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe.

“He will be remembered as a consummate professional and pillar of his community. I offer my prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and to the men and women of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett said, “It’s a very sad time for Lowndes County and the state of Alabama.” Jarrett said he knew Williams for most of their law enforcement careers.

“He was a wonderful man,” Jarrett said. “Everybody in law enforcement knew him. If you ever met him, you’d never forget him. He worked 24/7 and was an outstanding sheriff.”

Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Wad responded to the call for help and said, “He was as fine a man you’ll ever find. He always had a kind word for everyone. It’s just heartbreaking.

Michael Jackson, the district attorney for Alabama’s Fourth Judicial Circuit, said, “He was a great sheriff but an even better person.

“He really cared about the Black Belt. He came over to Selma many times to help fight the gang problem.”

Williams was born and reared in Lowndes County and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1976. Because of his height, he was known as ‘Big John.’

In 1978, he started volunteering as a reserve deputy under Lowndes County Sheriff John Hulett.

From 1984 to 1987 he worked for the Hayneville Police Department until he began working fulltime with the Lowndes County Sheriff’s office.

In 1990, he was appointed to chief deputy and served in that capacity until he left the department in 2009.

In 2010, he was elected as sheriff and then won reelection in 2014.

He “always wanted to make a difference in his community and felt there was no better way to help his community than to protect and serve them in law enforcement,” according to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office website.

Williams is the fifth Alabama law enforcement officer killed this year in the line of duty.

He leaves behind a wife and also a son and daughter who are adults.

His son was at the store when the deadly shooting occurred.

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