LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY REMEMBERS SHERIFF JOHN WILLIAMS
Reporting by WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton.
Hearts broke Saturday night as news from Lowndes County traveled across the state, and now communities are mourning the loss of Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams, who was shot and killed at a gas station over the weekend.
Authorities arrested the shooter, 18-year-old William Chase Johnson, after he returned to the scene of the crime a few hours later. Johnson is the son of a sheriff’s deputy in Montgomery County. Witnesses at the scene reported that Williams asked Johnson to turn his loud music down before Johnson shot him in the head. Johnson made his first appearance in court today and is being held without bond.
While Johnson is forced to answer for his crime, law enforcement members throughout Alabama are still trying to cope with the tragedy.
“It just devastated me, to be honest with you,” Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy said. “I couldn’t hardly believe it. Personally, it hurt me for him and his family, just knowing what kind of a guy he is. It just hurt me to think that I won’t see him again and he’s been taking from my relationship, but from his community’s relationship also for nothing.”
Along with Abernathy, Greene County Sheriff Joe Benison is struggling to deal with the loss.
“It was a moment of silence for me for a second because I was really shocked,” Benison said. “I was overwhelmed. He’s truly loved. He’s truly going to be missed. But we’ll never forget him. I’ll never forget him in my heart because I cared for him and he cared for me.”
Even as the two sheriffs remember their fallen brother, they’re beginning to focus on actions that can be taken to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again. Abernathy believes that more stringent penalties should be levied against individuals who commit such acts of violence.
“I think there needs to be more accountability for individuals,” Abernathy said. “I think that point is getting across and this is just a prime example of a super guy. The impact it has on the suspect’s family, the victim’s family and across the board it’s a total waste. We’ve got to do something to address this and maybe make the consequences of actions for such need to be stronger.”
Benison believes that stricter gun control could be the answer to preventing another loss like this.
“We need to make tougher gun laws in the state of Alabama and across this country to take away guns from people who don’t deserve them and don’t need them,” Benison said. “That would be my task as the sheriff of Greene County. I will fight with my association to make that happen.”
In the meantime, the sheriffs are offering their help to the people of Lowndes County, specifically the sheriff office and the community that loved Williams the most.
“Whatever we can do to help in any facet we’re going to and we’re going to be there for his family and his sheriff’s office,” Abernathy said. “This is going to be a very trying time on that community and on that sheriff’s office.”
Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered state flags to be flown at half staff until Williams’ burial on Monday, Dec. 2.