Murder suspect held with no bond

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 27, 2019

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The suspect in the fatal shooting of Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams last Saturday night was apprehended within hours of the murder.

William Chase Johnson, 18, was taken into custody by dozens of law enforcement officers just after midnight after he approached the scene of the deadly shooting, which occurred at the QV gas station located across from the Lowndes County Courthouse in Downtown Hayneville.

According to law enforcement officers at the scene, Johnson was taken into custody without incident. It was reported that a handgun was taken from Johnson as he was apprehended.

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The scene was chaotic at around 12:05 a.m. as Sgt. Steve Jarrett, commander of the Montgomery Post of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Troopers, was finishing a briefing with members of the media on the Hayneville Town Square.

Jarrett had just finished telling members of the media that there would likely be no further updates on the case until later Sunday when a crowd of officers rushed toward the corner of AL-21 and AL-97. Johnson, 18, had suddenly appeared on the scene and approached officers with his hands up.

It was a bizarre end to the nearly four-hour manhunt that had begun shortly after 8:15 when Johnson allegedly shot and killed Williams in the parking lot of the QV gas station as Williams responded to a call to help clear the area of a crowd loitering in the lot and noise complaint.

Hours earlier, the ALEA had issued an Emergency Blue Alert naming the 5-foot-9-inch, 137-pound Johnson as a suspect in the case.

“William Johnson may be traveling on foot and is believed to be a serious risk to the public,” the alert stated.

According to Jarrett, Johnson had fled the scene on foot and State Troopers along with dozens of sheriff’s deputies and city police officers from across the state converged on the scene and worked to seal off any means of escape. At Exit 151 off Interstate 65, four Alabama State Trooper cars checked every vehicle leaving the Hayneville area.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office later identified Johnson as the son of a deputy, leading to speculation that his surrender had been arranged. ALEA officials would not confirm that as of Sunday.

Jarrett spoke with reporters shortly after Johnson was taken under heavy police escort to the Elmore County Jail and booked on the murder charges. Johnson was expected in court Monday to have the charges formalized.

“I can confirm that as you saw here, the suspect was taken into custody shortly after midnight,” Jarrett said. “He was taken into custody here at the scene without incident and that is really all we have at this time. Details as to how he fled the scene and reappeared at the scene will all be investigated.”

Johnson was denied bond Monday during his first court appearance.