Montgomery Advertiser HAYNEVILLE — Lowndes County is mourning a giant.
Sheriff “Big John” Williams towered over this rural central Alabama county in more ways than one. He was shot and killed in the line of duty Saturday night in the parking lot of the QV convenience store. The store is on the main drag of this small hamlet, across the town square from the courthouse and just down the street from Williams’ home.
“A good man lost his life for nothing, it’s just senseless,” said Steve Webb, a Lowndes County native. He was filling up his pickup at the store Sunday morning. “It’s just senseless. The sheriff was a good man. He didn’t play any favorites. He didn’t care if you were black or white. He was a good man, and now he’s gone.”
Williams’ towering height gave him his nickname. A beloved lawman serving in his home county, he was regarded highly by the home folk. He was also well respected in the state’s law enforcement community.
He had an easy smile and a deep voice that he hardly ever raised. He didn’t have to.
“He was the sheriff,” said Eddie Lee “Jackpot” Grant, another Lowndes County native.
“If he could help you he would. Every time he would see you, he’d wave and speak. You know that voice he had.”
Hayneville, the county seat, is about 25 miles west of Montgomery, in the heart of the Black Belt. The county has a population of about 11,000. Williams had a habit of riding through the town and out in the county in his unmarked Chevy Tahoe. He would squawk the siren as he went by.
“You see Big John and he’d give you the whoop-whoop,” Grant said, smiling. “He’d never toot the horn, just the whoop-whoop. He let you know he was out doing his job. And now he’s gone.”
Details are still sketchy as to what happened Saturday night. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is handling the investigation. ALEA labeled William Chase Johnson, 18, as the suspect in the shooting Saturday night.
Williams was shot about 8:15 p.m. Johnson walked up to the crime scene just after midnight, a firearm in hand, and gave himself up after an hours’ long manhunt.
He was taken into custody without incident.