HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams was shot and killed at a gas station in Hayneville Saturday night.
The suspected shooter, 18-year-old William Chase Johnson, was taken into custody at the same QV gas station after a nearly four-hour manhunt, according to law enforcement.
Sgt. Steve Jarrett with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Johnson fled from the gas station after the shooting around 8 p.m. and then reappeared at the gas station around midnight. Law enforcement took a handgun from Johnson when he was taken into custody, Jarrett confirmed.
“Details as to how he fled the scene and then reappeared at the scene, all that’s going to be investigated,” Jarrett said.
Video from the scene shows law enforcement officers surrounding Johnson.
Johnson was taken to a detention facility.
During the search for Johnson, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency issued a Blue Alert. A Blue Alert is activated when a law enforcement officer in Alabama has been killed or seriously injured and the perpetrator is at large.
Few details have been released about the shooting, but Jarrett confirmed the sheriff was involved in an incident at the gas station around 8 p.m. Saturday and was fatally shot.
The gas station is at the corner of Highway 21 and Highway 97, which is the main intersection in Hayneville. It is across the street from the Lowndes County Courthouse.
Early Sunday morning law enforcement officers were still actively processing the scene at the gas station. The Alabama State Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation.
Jarrett said Williams was a very loved sheriff, and this is devastating for the law enforcement community.
“It’s always hard to see a fellow law enforcement officer lose his life, especially in this manner, just something so silly," Jarrett said. “But Big John Williams was known by people all through the state and probably neighboring states. He was just a great guy. He worked 24/7, he was always willing to help. The citizens here loved him. It just couldn’t have happened to a nicer person or better law enforcement officer.”
Sheriffs from several of the neighboring counties traveled to Lowndes County Saturday night to show support.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey released this statement:
“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 Attorney General Steve Marshall released this statement:
“Tonight, Alabama mourns the loss of another law enforcement officer in the line of duty. Lowndes County Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams died from gun fire while responding to an incident in Hayneville. Sheriff Williams devoted his life to law enforcement. He gave more than 40 years to public safety in his home county, serving the last 19 years as Lowndes County Sheriff. His dedication and experience are irreplaceable. Sheriff Williams is the fifth line-of-duty death of an Alabama law enforcement officer to gun fire this year and the sixth to lose his life overall in our state over the last 11 months. Serving the public in the role of a peace officer is a difficult calling, fraught with peril, yet thankfully many Alabama men and women choose to answer the call, often time putting their lives in danger to protect us. It simply cannot be said enough that we owe these heroes our gratitude and our support. I know all Alabamians join me in passing along our condolences and prayers to Sheriff Williams’ family and to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.”
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, who represents Alabama’s 7th congressional district, including Lowndes County, released this statement on Twitter:
“I’m incredibly saddened by Sheriff Williams’ senseless murder in the line of duty last night. He was a giant in the Alabama law enforcement community and will be deeply missed. My prayers are with his family, friends & the entire Lowndes County community.”
ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor released this statement:
“We in Alabama’s law enforcement community mourn the loss of a dedicated brother. Not only was Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams a committed man of the law, but he was kind and loved by many. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Williams family.”
Williams, who grew up in Lowndes County, was elected sheriff in 2010 after serving as chief deputy for 19 years. Williams joined the sheriff’s department in 1987. He worked for the Hayneville Police Department from 1984 to 1987.
“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,” a biography on the sheriff’s office website stated.