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An 18-year-old suspect wanted in connection with the shooting death of an Alabama sheriff was taken into custody shortly after midnight Sunday following a nearly four-hour manhunt, according to reports.
William Chase Johnson, who authorities said earlier had driven off in the sheriff’s vehicle after the 8:15 p.m. shooting — with the vehicle found a short time later — returned to the crime scene with a firearm in his hand and surrendered, AL.com reported.
Fatally shot Saturday evening was Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams Sr., known as “Big John,” a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who had been sheriff in the community near Montgomery, the state capital, for nearly a decade.
Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams. (Alabama Sheriffs Association)
Williams had responded to a call from a convenience store in Hayneville, about 24 miles southwest of Montgomery, when he was fatally shot “over something silly,” Alabama Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett told AL.com. Further details of the incident were not immediately available.
Authorities quickly posted an online alert about Johnson, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency describing the suspect as “a serious risk to the public.”
After Johnson allegedly drove off in the sheriff’s vehicle, it was later spotted abandoned and was recovered, AL.com reported.
A heavy law enforcement presence was seen at the convenience store following the shooting, according to WSFA-TV of Montgomery.
Jarrett did not immediately share information on where Johnson fled or how he was able to return to the crime scene.
“All that’s going to be investigated,” the sergeant told WSFA.
Williams was first elected sheriff in 2010 and has held the job ever since, the Advertiser reported. His death was quickly recognized as a severe blow to the community he served.
“He was a wonderful man,” Jarrett told AL.com. “Everybody in law enforcement knew him. If you ever met him, you’d never forget him. He worked 24/7 and was an outstanding sheriff.”
“He was a wonderful man. Everybody in law enforcement knew him. If you ever met him, you’d never forget him. He worked 24/7 and was an outstanding sheriff.”
— Trooper Sgt. Steve Jarrett, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey posted a Twitter message in reaction to the sheriff’s death.
“I’m saddened to hear about Sheriff Big John Williams, who was tragically killed this evening in the line of duty,” Ivey wrote. “Through his service to our country in the @USMC and his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe.
“He will be remembered as a consummate professional and pillar of his community,” Ivey continued. “I offer my prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and to the men and women of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.