The son of a deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Alabama was charged with murder Monday in the killing of the sheriff of a neighboring county.
The man, William Chase Johnson, 18, was charged with fatally shooting Sheriff John Williams of Lowndes County on Saturday night after the sheriff responded to a call at a gas station in Hayneville, Alabama.
Johnson is being held at the Elmore County Jail, according to court records. The presiding judge denied Johnson’s bond, The Associated Press reported.
Williams was a former Marine who had served in law enforcement for 40 years, the past nine years as the sheriff. He was the fifth law enforcement officer in Alabama this year to be killed in gun violence while on the job, Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement.
“Serving the public in the role of a peace officer is a difficult calling, fraught with peril, yet thankfully many Alabama men and women choose to answer the call, oftentimes putting their lives in danger to protect us,” the statement read. “It simply cannot be said enough that we owe these heroes our gratitude and our support.”
On Saturday night, Williams responded to a disturbance call at a local gas station, according to Lt. Ed Jones of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
Shortly after arriving, Williams was shot between 7:45 p.m. and 8 p.m., Jones said Monday.
The authorities immediately began a manhunt to find the gunman, who they said had initially fled the scene but returned hours later.
Johnson was taken into custody at the gas station around midnight, Alabama State Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett said at a news conference early Sunday morning. Johnson was carrying a handgun at the time of his arrest, the sergeant said.
Johnson’s first hearing was Monday at a courthouse in Hayneville, Alabama, where he was charged with murder. It was not immediately clear if Johnson had a lawyer.
Both the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that Johnson was the son of a deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Neither counties would name Johnson’s father, nor say whether Johnson or his father knew Williams.
Hours after the shooting, Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, offered her condolences to the sheriff’s county.
“He will be remembered as a consummate professional and pillar of his community,” she said. “I offer my prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and to the men and women of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department.”
Jarrett said at the news conference that Williams was “very loved.”
“Big John Williams was known by people all through the state,” the sergeant said with tears in his eyes. “He was always willing to help and the citizens here loved him. It just couldn’t have happened to a nicer person or a better law enforcement officer.”
A vigil was held for Williams in Lowndes County on Sunday.
Williams was born and raised in Lowndes County, and he began volunteering with the sheriff’s office in 1978 as a reserve deputy, according to the county website.
After working as a deputy for the sheriff’s office while simultaneously working at the Hayneville Police Department, Williams was promoted to chief deputy in 2009. He was elected sheriff of Lowndes County in 2010, and reelected in 2014.