HAYNEVILLE, Ala. — The man charged with murder in the shooting death of Lowndes County Sheriff “Big John” Williams appeared in court Monday morning.
William Chase Johnson, 18, arrived escorted by four state troopers. He is the son of a sheriff’s deputy in neighboring Montgomery County . He was wearing black- and white-striped jail garb and restrained in handcuffs and ankle chains. He appeared before Crenshaw County Circle Judge Tom Sport.
The entire process took less than five minutes. After Sport told him of the murder charge against him, Johnson said he understood that charge and told the judge he had not decided if he was going to hire an attorney or need to have one appointed. Then, Sport set a no bond in the case.
Usually, Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson handles first appearances. Johnson recused himself citing his close personal relationship with Williams.
Security was visibly heightened outside of the courthouse and inside in the courtroom itself. Uniformed and plain clothes officers were stationed throughout the courthouse. Several were seen carrying rifles or shotguns. Johnson is being housed in the Elmore County Jail.
‘I don’t understand it’:Murder of Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams stuns Lowndes County, Alabama
A motorcade of marked state trooper vehicles and unmarked vehicles was used to transport Johnson to Hayneville.
Details of the shooting remain unclear, but witnesses and police authorities say Johnson was driving a pickup truck that was parked in front of the store on Saturday.
Williams, 62, went up the the truck to ask why the music was so loud and Johnson allegedly shot him once in the head. Johnson ran from the scene, only to walk up to the crime scene four hours later, pistol in hand, after an hourslong manhunt. He was taken into custody without incident.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is investigating the shooting. The agency hasn’t said whether Williams was in uniform at the time or if he was driving a marked or unmarked vehicle.
Witnesses and police:Alabama sheriff shot and killed over loud music
His height of 6 feet, 6 inches gave the sheriff his nickname. Williams was a beloved lawman serving his home county for more than 40 years. The county has a population of about 11,000.
He started out in the Hayneville Police Department before going to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. He worked his way up to chief deputy and was elected sheriff in 2010.
Through his career, Williams has led Christmas parades in the towns throughout the county, escorted funerals, attended family reunions. He was a fixture in local schools, walking through regularly. He was a deacon at his home church, the Original Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, but he often visited churches in the county for worship or to bring messages.
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