‘A very loved sheriff’: Lowndes County, law enforcement mourn ‘Big John’ Williams
HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - The Hayneville community held prayer time for the family of slain Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams Sunday afternoon.
Lowndes County suffered a tragic loss Saturday night after its sheriff was shot and killed at a gas station in Hayneville. The prayer time, held at Hayneville’ town square, saw more than 100 people turn out. They prayed for their community’s healing and they thanked God for the influence “Big John” had.
“He was always good to our children," said Lowndes County resident Shirley McNamee. "He loved them. It’s been a really hard day today, there wasn’t a dry eye in our church today.”
“Our life is just like a vapor," Hope Hull resident Callie Griffin said. "We are here today, but we will soon vanish, and that’s what happened to him, he was just taken too quick, too fast, cause I know everybody, even I have to die but it just a shock.”
Williams, who grew up in Lowndes County, was elected sheriff in 2010 after serving as chief deputy for 19 years. Williams joined the sheriff’s department in 1987. He worked for the Hayneville Police Department from 1984 to 1987.
“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,” a biography on the sheriff’s office website stated.
Also according to the sheriff’s office website, Williams was awarded the 2015 Partner in Education of the Year Award from the Lowndes County Board of Education, because of his active participation with the youth of the Lowndes County Schools. He frequently visited schools and on any given day could be found attending a school athletic function.
Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham spoke about Williams, who he called a friend.
“He didn’t meet a stranger, any strangers. And that’s how I want him to be remembered,” he said. "That friend, I mean, because he was a friend. He was a friend to everybody. If you see him, he came through here right now, he’s going to blow that horn.”
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor released this statement Sunday afternoon about Williams:
“We in Alabama’s law enforcement community mourn the loss of a dedicated brother. Not only was Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams a committed man of the law, but he was kind and loved by many. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Williams family.”
Saturday night, ALEA Sgt. Jarrett Steve Jarrett said the shooting was a devastating blow to the law enforcement community and to a “very loved sheriff.”
“It’s always hard to see a fellow law enforcement officer lose his life, especially in this manner, just something so silly," Jarrett said. “But Big John Williams was known by people all through the state and probably neighboring states. He was just a great guy. He worked 24/7, he was always willing to help. The citizens here loved him. It just couldn’t have happened to a nicer person or better law enforcement officer.”
Alabama’s senators reacted to the news Sunday. Sen. Richard Shelby tweeted:
“Saddened to hear of the tragic death of Sheriff John Williams while in the line of duty. My prayers remain with his wife, children, and loved ones during this heartbreaking time. His service to the people of Lowndes County and the state of Alabama will never be forgotten.”
Sen. Doug Jones tweeted:
“The death of Sheriff Williams is a sad and tragic loss for his community, his state and law enforcement everywhere. He was a friend and consummate public servant who devoted his life to public safety. Louise and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family and fellow officers.”
A suspect in the shooting, 18-year-old William Chase Johnson, surrendered to law enforcement after a four-hour manhunt. He was taken into custody at the same QV gas station where Williams was shot, and he has been booked in the Elmore County Jail.
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