A Black Alabama sheriff was fatally shot over the weekend by the 18-year-old son of a white deputy.
18-year-old William Chase Johnson was charged with murder in the shooting death of 62-year-old Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams. Johnson was escorted by four state troopers to his Monday morning court appearance with Crenshaw County Circle Judge Tom Sport. He is the son of a sheriff’s deputy in the neighboring Montgomery County.
His court process took less than five minutes where Johnson said he understood the charges against him and told the judge that he had not decided whether he was going to hire an attorney or need to have one appointed. Sport didn’t give Johnson a bond in the case.
Details of the shooting remain unclear, but witnesses and police authorities say Johnson was driving a pickup truck that was parked in front of a gas station store on Saturday with his music blasting. When Williams approached the truck to ask why the music was so loud, Johnson allegedly shot him once in the head and fled the scene. But he walked back up to the crime scene four hours later, with the same pistol in hand, after an hours-long manhunt from police. He was immediately taken into custody without incident, USA Today reports.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating the shooting and says Williams was not in uniform at the time of the shooting. His tall stature of 6 feet 6 inches tall gave the sheriff his nickname in the community where he was beloved by many.
Williams served his home county for more than 40 years after starting out in the Hayneville Police Department before going to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. He worked his way up to chief deputy and was elected sheriff in 2010.
During his career, Williams would lead local Christmas parades, escort funerals and attend family reunions. He was a well-known face in local schools and a deacon at his home church, the Original Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, but he always made time to make regular visits to worship or to bring messages to other nearby churches.