The sheriff of Lowndes County was fatally shot Saturday evening, authorities announced, and an 18-year-old suspect was taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt.
Gov. Kay Ivey tweeted Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams had been “tragically killed” in the line of duty and she offers her prayers and sympathy to his family and the county sheriff’s department.
The suspect in custody is 18-year-old William Chase Johnson. Johnson was transported to the Elmore County Jail.
Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham initially told news outlets Williams was shot at a gas station.
The state had issued an emergency alert saying it was seeking an 18-year-old white man last seen at a QV gas station at 8:15 p.m., in the area and around the time of the reported shooting.
Sgt. Steve Jarrett, the commander of state troopers’ Montgomery post, later confirmed to reporters the shooting took place at the QV station, and Johnson was the only suspect at the time. He was considered a “serious risk” to anyone who may have been traveling on foot, according to the alert.
Jarrett confirmed to news outlets Johnson approached the shooting scene just after midnight and had a handgun with him. The state law enforcement agency canceled the emergency alert early Sunday, stating Johnson was in custody.
The gas station is located in Hayneville around 20 miles southwest of Montgomery.
The tall sheriff was known as “Big John.” Ivey paid tribute to him online, writing in his years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps and “his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe.”
The sheriff was first elected in 2010, running as a Democrat. He was a Lowndes County native who started volunteering as a reserve deputy in 1978. He also worked for Hayneville police before joining the sheriff’s department full-time in 1987 and being appointed chief deputy in 1990.
“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,” the biography read.
During his decades-long career with the sheriff’s office, Williams notably in 2000 was the arresting officer of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a 1960s black militant who was known as H. Rap Brown before converting to Islam. Al-Amin was wanted and later convicted in the fatal 2000 shooting of a Fulton County sheriff’s deputy in Atlanta.
Williams is the fifth Alabama law enforcement officer to die from gunfire in the line of duty, and the sixth overall, in 2019, according to a statement from state Attorney General Steve Marshall.