Testimony: Suspect admitted to killing Lowndes County sheriff

Testimony: Suspect admitted to killing Lowndes County sheriff

LOWNDES COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - William Chase Johnson, the suspect charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams, appeared in court for a preliminary hearing Monday.

The case agent with the State Bureau of Investigation testified that Johnson admitted to killing Williams with a 9mm Glock. The same gun was still loaded when it was taken during Johnson’s arrest by SBI agents.

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)

According to testimony, surveillance video showed Williams arriving to clear a large crowd of loiterers at the gas station that was reportedly preventing customers from doing business.

The case agent said Williams saw the crowd while driving by the gas station and stopped on his own volition. He was not dispatched to the scene and no one called him to respond, according to testimony.

Surveillance video then showed Johnson and another truck pull in after the sheriff playing loud music.

Witnesses say the defendant got out of the truck and approached the sheriff in an aggressive manner.

The case agent said multiple witnesses heard Williams identify himself as the sheriff and tell Johnson to get back in his truck. Johnson then walked back to the truck and Williams followed.

Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams was shot and killed at a gas station in Hayneville.
Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams was shot and killed at a gas station in Hayneville. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The surveillance video showed Williams approaching the driver’s side door of Johnson’s truck and then falling to the ground. According to testimony, Johnson’s gun is not visible in the surveillance video. However, eyewitnesses told agents they saw Johnson pull the trigger. Williams never unholstered his duty weapon. He was killed by a single gunshot.

William’s son, who was with him at the time, returned fire as Johnson ran away from the scene. A passenger was grazed. It’s unclear how many shots were fired.

The judge said the state met their burden of probable cause and bound the case over for grand jury consideration.

The defense then asked the judge to set bail for Johnson. The state argued Johnson pulled the same weapon used in this offense on a man the week prior. The request for bond was denied.

A gag order is in place, preventing authorities from discussing the case.

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