Teen suspect accused of gunning down Alabama sheriff makes initial court appearance, held without bond

Published 9:58 pm Monday, November 25, 2019

A teenager accused of killing an Alabama sheriff is himself the son of a law enforcement officer and made his first court appearance Monday and was ordered held without bond.

Shackled and wearing a black-and-white striped jail uniform, 18-year-old William Chase Johnson was brought under heavy security to the Lowndes County courthouse for an initial court appearance on the murder charge against him.

Judge Tom Sport, who presided over the initial appearance, said there would be no bond in the case, news outlets reported.

Johnson was arrested in Saturday’s shooting death of Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams, a veteran law enforcement officer known as “Big John” for his towering frame.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the district judge, from Crenshaw County, asked Johnson if he understood the charge against him. Johnson said he did.

Williams was shot and killed Saturday night at a gas station in Lowndes County, southwest of the capital city of Montgomery. Johnson was arrested hours later after returning to the scene.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Bureau of Investigation has not released any information about the circumstances of the shooting. Initial court records did not elaborate on a possible motive.

Johnson is the son of a sheriff’s deputy in neighboring Montgomery County, a public information officer for the sheriff’s department confirmed to The Associated Press.

Court records show that Johnson had minor brushes with the law earlier this year. He was arrested on charges of possession of alcohol by a minor and possession of brass knuckles. The charges were dismissed after he performed community service at an animal shelter, court records show.

Williams was first elected sheriff in 2010, running as a Democrat. He was a Lowndes County native who had begun 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.

Law enforcement officials from across the state offered condolences in the aftermath of the shooting, saying Williams was beloved by his community and fellow law enforcement officials.

“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,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Hal Taylor said.

Williams is the fifth law enforcement officer in Alabama to die by gunfire in the line of duty this year, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Dec. 2, when Williams is scheduled to be buried.

WSFA reported that a service and visitation is scheduled at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery on Dec 2.

Williams will be laid to rest in the cemetery of Shiloh Primitive Baptist in Hayneville.