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18-year-old suspect held in fatal shooting of Alabama sheriff

By
Allen Cone
John Williams was sheriff in Lowndes County, Ala., since 2010. Photo courtesy Lowndes County Sheriff's Office
John Williams was sheriff in Lowndes County, Ala., since 2010. Photo courtesy Lowndes County Sheriff's Office

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- An 18-year-old suspect was apprehended about three hours after a sheriff in a central Alabama county was fatally shot while answering a call at a convenience store Saturday night.

John Williams of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office was killed about 8:15 p.m. at a QV convenience store in Hayneville, about 20 miles southwest of Montgomery, AL.com reported. The county has a population of around 11,000.

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After the manhunt, William Chase Johnson returned to the crime scene and surrendered while in possession of a gun, authorities said.

WIlliams, who was known as "Big John" and was sheriff since 2010, had gone to the store when the owner said there was a crowd hanging out in the parking lot and he wanted them dispersed.

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"Details as to how he fled the scene and then reappeared at the scene, all that's going to be investigated," Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett said in a report by WSFA-TV.

Jarrett said he had known Williams for most of their law enforcement careers.

"It's a very sad time for Lowndes County and the state of Alabama,'' Jarrett said. "He was a wonderful man. 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."

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

"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 USMC and his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe,'' Gov. Kay Ive posted on Twitter. "He will be remembered as a consummate profession and pillar of his community. I offer my prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and the men and women of the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department."

Shortly after 10 p.m., the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a Blue Alert for Johnson. Just after midnight, authorities said, Johnson returned to the crime scene and surrendered.

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Johnson, who is from Montgomery and the son of a law enforcement officer, was arrested in August on a charge of being in possession of brass knuckles and being a minor in possession of alcohol. Those charges were later dismissed, according to court records.

Williams' adult son was at the store when the shooting happened. He also leaves behind a wife and an adult daughter.

In 1978, Williams started volunteering as a reserve deputy, two years after graduating from high school.

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Williams worked for the Hayneville Police Department from 1984 through 1987, then joined the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office full time. He continued his employment with Hayneville Police Department.

In 2010, he successfully ran for sheriff and was reelected again in 2014.

"Sheriff Williams 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," read a bio on the sheriff's office website.

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