Lowndes County in Alabama is mourning the loss of a pillar in their community, Sheriff John “Big John” Williams. According to the Montgomery Adviser, Sheriff Williams was allegedly shot in the head around 8:15 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 23) after approaching the car of William Chase Johnson outside of a QV convenience store near the Lowndes County Courthouse. Reports say that Williams was going to inquire about Johnson’s music being loud and ask him to turn it down.
A man named Charles Benson said that he witnessed the entire exchange. “Right there at Pump 8,” Benson said. “Big John comes up and asks the young man about the loud music, just like he has done hundreds of times before. Big John don’t take no foolishness.” He added, “That’s when he got shot. I don’t understand it. The sheriff is gone over loud music? It just don’t seem right.”
Williams was on duty at the time and was responding to an incident at the QV convenience store, NBC News reports.
Additional details surrounding the incident and Johnson’s background are eerily scarce. However, what is known is that Johnson is the son of a Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy, according to NBC News. Could this be a case of using police power to silence the media? This question currently remains unanswered, but speculation is continuing to mount.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday (Nov. 24), following a four-hour manhunt, Johnson surrendered at the same gas station where he took Sheriff Williams’ life. According to The Associate Press, the state issued an emergency alert late Saturday (Nov. 23) saying that they were seeking an 18-year-old white man, who was last seen around the time of the shooting at a QV gas station in Lowndes Country — about 20 miles southwest of Montgomery. Sgt. Steve Jarrett, the commander of state troopers’ Montgomery post, confirmed that Johnson approached the scene with a handgun, which was taken from him before he was placed in custody. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency canceled the emergency alert after Johnson was apprehended.
According to Elmore jail records, Johnson was charged with murder and a bond has not yet been set.
The Montgomery Adviser reports that the state law enforcement agency is handling the investigation.
Tyler Norris, the police chief in Citronelle, in Mobile County, released a statement about Williams, whom he had been friends with for years. “Big John never met a stranger. Big John had many white brothers and sisters as well as black. He truly believed they were his blood kin. He never saw color as a reason to treat anyone different or love anyone less,” said Norris.
He continued, “Big John was one of those you hear about in our profession that would work for free. He would literally work for no pay at all, if he could have survived financially doing so.”
Williams was first elected sheriff of Lowndes County, which is predominately Black and had a population of 11,000, in 2010, according to The Associated Press.
The AL.com reports that Williams is the fifth Alabama law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty this year.