18-year-old charged with murdering sheriff appears in court

Suspect in sheriff’s death appears in court

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - William Chase Johnson made his initial appearance in court Monday morning. The 18-year-old is charged with murder in the shooting death of Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams Saturday night.

Johnson will be held in the Elmore County Jail without bond. He was brought into court shackled and dressed in a black and white jumpsuit.

William Chase Johnson made his initial appearance in court Monday morning.
William Chase Johnson made his initial appearance in court Monday morning. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Crenshaw County District Judge Tom Sport was appointed to preside over the case after Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson recused because he was present at the crime scene.

Sport issued a gag order in the case, preventing those involved from making any public statements to the media.

According to the court filings of the arrest warrant and deposition, Johnson is said to have been under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance at the time of the incident.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said the sheriff’s son witnessed the shooting.

“The devastating part is his son was at the gas station that same night, he witnessed all this,” Cunningham said.

Montgomery County sheriff says Lowndes County sheriff's son witnessed shooting

Johnson surrendered to law enforcement early Sunday morning after a four-hour manhunt. He was taken into custody at the same QV gas station on West Tuskeena Street in Hayneville where Sheriff Williams was fatally shot.

Lowndes County Sheriff "Big John" Williams was killed in a shooting Saturday night at a QV gas station in Hayneville.
Lowndes County Sheriff "Big John" Williams was killed in a shooting Saturday night at a QV gas station in Hayneville. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The gas station is at the corner of Highway 21 and Highway 97, which is the main intersection in Hayneville and is located across the street from the county courthouse.

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.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Johnson is the son of one of its deputies.

18-year-old William Chase Johnson, suspected of shooting Lowndes County Sheriff "Big John" Williams, was taken into custody at the QV gas station after a nearly four-hour manhunt, according to law enforcement.
18-year-old William Chase Johnson, suspected of shooting Lowndes County Sheriff "Big John" Williams, was taken into custody at the QV gas station after a nearly four-hour manhunt, according to law enforcement. (Source: The Montgomery Advertiser)

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