U.S. Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died Oct. 17 at a hospice center in Baltimore. He was 68.
The cause was “complications concerning long-standing health challenges,” his office said in a statement. Mr. Cummings was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a leading figure in the Trump impeachment inquiry and had been out of his office for weeks while recovering from an unspecified medical procedure.
Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to enter the legal profession.
Many young men in my neighborhood were going to reform school,” he told the East Texas Review. “Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”
‘It was like a gut punch’: Reactions pour in after Cummings’s death
Following the news of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings’s (D-Md.) death on Oct. 17, politicians, television hosts and community leaders paid tribute to the civil rights leader.
In the Maryland House of Delegates, he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as speaker pro tem, the member who presides in the speaker’s absence.
In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
‘A giant of integrity and knowledge has fallen’: Congress reacts to the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings
He drew national attention as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief defender during 2015 congressional hearings into her handling of the attack three years earlier on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
He was “the quintessential speaking-truth-to-power representative,” said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “Cummings has never shied from a very forceful give-and-take.”
Baltimore’s plight informed Mr. Cummings’s life and work on Capitol Hill, a connection exemplified by his response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in April 2015 and the explosion of outrage that came after it.
Gray died of injuries suffered while riding, improperly secured, in a police van after he was arrested for carrying a knife, in his pocket, that police said was illegal. His death ignited rioting in Baltimore and elevated tensions nationally over perceived racism and excessive violence in law enforcement.
Speaking at the funeral, Mr. Cummings, who lived near where Gray was arrested, bemoaned the presence of media to chronicle Gray’s death without celebrating his life.
“Did you see him? Did you see him?” Mr. Cummings asked in his booming baritone. The church exploded with applause, and civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson sat, rapt, behind him. “Did you see him?”
“I’ve often said, our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see,” he said, his voice rising. “But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see! There’s something wrong with that picture!”
When looting began, hours after the funeral, Mr. Cummings rushed, bullhorn in hand, to a troubled West Baltimore neighborhood, where he worked to restore order and to assure residents that authorities were taking the case seriously. (Six officers would be charged in Gray’s death, although prosecutors failed to secure a conviction against any of them.)
Amid the unrest, he and a dozen other residents marched, arm in arm, through the streets, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
Mr. Cummings was known for showing the same kind of commitment in the House. The bullhorn he wielded in West Baltimore was emblazoned with a gold label that read, “The gentleman will not yield.” It was a gift from his Democratic colleagues, bestowed after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) silenced Mr. Cummings’s microphone at a 2014 hearing into complaints that the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted conservative nonprofit groups.
The next year, while serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he sparred with Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) during hearings Republicans convened to examine Clinton’s role in the Benghazi debacle.
When Gowdy interrogated Clinton about Libya-related emails sent from a longtime confidant of hers, Sidney Blumenthal, Mr. Cummings interjected: “Gentleman, yield! Gentleman, yield! You have made several inaccurate statements.”
Talking to reporters in the hallway later, Mr. Cummings said his primary purpose was not to defend Clinton but to seek “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
“Let the world see it,” he said. The experience didn’t appear to sour Gowdy on Mr. Cummings.
“It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes,” Gowdy told the Hill newspaper. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in a memo they got that morning, and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul.”
Cummings Dealing With Trump
Cummings defends unleashing subpoenas over Trump security clearances
House Oversight chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) urged Congress April 2 to support issuing subpoenas over Trump administration security clearances. The first two years of the Trump administration, 2017 and 2018, were agonizing for Mr. Cummings, who was battling ill health, including complications of heart surgery, as well as political frustration.
Mr. Cummings said his efforts to work with Trump and members the GOP majority in the House were fruitless. He said that at the luncheon after Trump’s inauguration and during other encounters, he urged the president to pursue policies that could unite the country and burnish his legacy. The congressman said that after a few promising meetings, he stopped hearing from Trump.
“Perhaps if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had a lot of hope,” Mr. Cummings later remarked. “He is a man who quite often calls the truth a lie and calls a lie the truth.”
As ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a change that critics contended would discourage participation by documented and undocumented immigrants alike.
He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. He described the Trump White House as inhumane in its use of “child internment camps.”
In turn, the president went on a Twitter tirade against Mr. Cummings and described his majority black Baltimore district as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and suggested the congressman focus his efforts on cleaning up “this very dangerous & filthy place.”
Mr. Cummings’ response was not to dignify the attack, instead telling an audience at the National Press Club in Washington: “Those at the highest levels of government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. As a country, we finally must say that enough is enough. That we are done with the hateful rhetoric.”
After Democrats won control of the House in the November 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Cummings was elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, a position that he used to spearhead probes into security clearances issued by the White House over the objections of career officials and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Mr. Cummings had a combative streak, but he was adept at calming volatile situations, such as the sharp exchange between Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) during a hearing in February 2019.
The Oversight Committee was taking testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Tlaib accused Meadows of pulling a “racist” stunt by having a black woman, an administration employee, stand behind him. Meadows demanded that her words be stricken from the record.
Mr. Cummings called Meadows “one of my best friends” and prompted Tlaib to say that she was not calling Meadows a racist. By the next day, the conservative Meadows and liberal freshman Tlaib were hugging in public.
“Interaction, man,” Mr. Cummings said by way of explanation. “Human interaction, that’s all.”
‘Not my Baltimore’: In Cummings’s district, a rich tapestry of problems and gems.
Lawyer and lawmaker
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) addresses a National Press Club luncheon on his “committee’s investigations into President Donald Trump and his administration,” in August 7. Cummings died early Thursday at the age of 68.
Elijah Eugene Cummings was born in Baltimore on Jan. 18, 1951. His father worked at a chemical factory, his mother at a pickle factory and later as a maid while raising seven children. Both parents came from sharecropping families in South Carolina. Although they struggled to feed their family, his parents would can apples and peaches and give half the preserves to people in need.
The proprietor of a Baltimore drugstore where Mr. Cummings worked paid his application fee to Howard University and, during Mr. Cummings’s time as a Howard student, regularly sent him $10 with a note that read, “Hang in there.”
At Howard, he served as student government president, and he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1973. He received a law degree from the University of Maryland three years later and practiced law, mostly in private practice, for nearly two decades.
He also helped law students develop their oral and writing skills as chief judge on the Maryland Moot Court, a competition in which students submit briefs and present oral arguments in a hypothetical appellate case.
In the Maryland House of Delegates, where Mr. Cummings served from 1983 to 1996, he championed a ban on alcohol and tobacco ads on inner-city billboards in Baltimore — the first prohibition of its kind in a major U.S. city.
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Cummings was among the minority of House members and senators who voted in 2002 against authorizing a military invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush’s administration, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was alleging that Iraq continued to possess and develop weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Cummings said there was not sufficient evidence of such weapons to “send our young people off to war and thereby place their lives in harm’s way,” an opinion supported by subsequent investigations.
Also in 2002, Mr. Cummings was elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a position he used to push for increased funding for public education and the Head Start program.
His first marriage, to Joyce Matthews, ended in divorce after a long separation. In 2008, he married Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant and chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.
In the mid-1990s, he had financial difficulties. He was sued by creditors and owed $30,000 in federal taxes, which he eventually paid. He told the Baltimore Sun that during his time as a congressman, he endured two winters without heat because he could not afford to fix his furnace.
He has said the money problems stemmed from his struggles to keep his law practice afloat while running for Congress and also from helping to support his three children. “I have a moral conscience that is real central,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t ask the federal government or anyone else to do me any favors.”
Mr. Cummings said he considered running to succeed Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who did not seek reelection in 2016, but decided that he was needed in Baltimore to help the riot-torn city.
A member of New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Mr. Cummings said he was driven by his faith and secure in his conviction that history would recognize his resolve to stand up for what he believed was right.
“In the city of Baltimore, there are over a thousand monuments, and not one monument is erected to memorialize a critic,” he once said in a speech. “Every one of the monuments is erected to memorialize one who was severely criticized.”
Victims In Kobe Bryant Crash Have Now All Been Identified
Here’s what is known so far about the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant and eight other people.
Nine people were on board the Sikorsky S76 when something went wrong just before 10 a.m. Sunday.
The passengers were on their way to a basketball game when the chopper went down.
The helicopter’s flight path shows it going from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley and then hovering over the Glendale area as it waited for clearance to travel through the Valley to Calabasas. The tracking ends at the crash site in Calabasas.
Kobe Bryant’s 13-year old daughter Gianna was among those killed. Gianna — often called “Gigi” — was the second oldest of Bryant’s four daughters.
Bryant had coached Gianna’s AAU basketball team out of his Mamba Sports Academy training facility in Thousand Oaks for the past two years.
They were all reportedly headed to an AAU game when the crash happened.
In addition to Bryant and his daughter, three members of one family died in the crash.
John Altobelli was the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. His wife Keri and their daughter Alyssa were also on board.
The husband of Christina Mauser posted on Facebook that she died in the helicopter crash. Mauser was a basketball coach at Harbor Day School in Newport Beach, where Kobe’s daughter attended school. Mauser’s husband says he and his kids are devastated.
Sarah Chester and her middle school aged daughter Payton were on also on board the helicopter piloted by Ara Zobayan.
Kobe Bryant’s Death in Helicopter Crash Stuns the World
Helicopter rotors chopped through the foggy canyon Sunday morning, too loud, too low.
Scott Daehlin was taking a smoke break while setting up the sound at his church in Calabasas. It was 9:44 a.m. He tracked the sound in the sky toward an empty hill across Las Virgenes Road.
The helicopter hit the slope in a violent crush of metal, followed by the boom of an explosion that reverberated across the canyon — and soon enough, around the world.
Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players of all time — a beloved, at times frustrating star who mesmerized Los Angeles for his 20 legendary years as a Laker — was killed in the wreckage at age 41.
His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died alongside him, as did seven others — everyone on board. Bryant appears to have been headed to Thousand Oaks to coach his daughter’s basketball team in a travel tournament. He leaves behind his wife, Vanessa, and three daughters — Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, seven months.
Officials did not release the names of the other victims, but Orange Coast College confirmed that its baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa, were among them. Christina Mauser, an assistant coach of a girls basketball team at the Mamba Sports Academy, also died, her husband said on Facebook.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said firefighters responding to a 911 call at 9:47 a.m. found a debris field in steep terrain amid a quarter-acre brush fire. Paramedics arriving by helicopter searched the area but found no survivors.
Bryant, who had homes in Newport Beach and Los Angeles, was known to keep a chartered helicopter at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.
A Sikorsky S-76 helicopter, built in 1991, departed John Wayne at 9:06 a.m. Sunday, according to publicly available flight records. The National Transportation Safety Board database shows no prior incidents or accidents for the mid-size helicopter.
Around the city and far beyond, people gasped and struggled to accept the news. Friends texted friends: Are you OK? They cried in bars and churches, on street corners and golf courses and basketball courts. Restaurants closed Sunday night to honor his memory, and people placed basketballs outside their front doors, like flags at half staff.
“Did you hear?” a cashier at the Trader Joe’s in the Fairfax district asked quietly to another staffer just after noon on Sunday.
“Yeah, but is it for real?” the other man replied.
“Yeah, just confirmed. Unbelievable.”
Shoppers came to a halt in the aisles, staring gravely at their smartphones as news alerts pinged.
“He was the best,” a shopper spoke aloud to himself.
At an East Hollywood Metro station, a man wearing earphones watched a YouTube video on his phone — “Kobe Bryant’s TOP 40 Plays of His NBA Career!” Two other men walked up behind him to see. He nodded and unplugged his earphones so everyone could hear the audio.
They watched in silence, as a clip of Bryant, in his Laker purple, jumping toward the backboard and dunking in his own missed shot. “The greatest who ever lived,” one man said.
Many fans drifted toward Staples Center, even as final preparations were underway inside for Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. They formed a makeshift memorial.
On it, Sam Krutonog, 19, of Studio City, placed a painting of Bryant he bought when he was 13 and had hung in his bedroom.
“This is a day I’ll never forget … It’s bigger than basketball. I called my grandpa. My grandpa is 82 and just had two heart attacks, and he was crying on the phone. It’s just so terrible,” Krutonog said.
Giselle Mejia, 33, placed her hand over her mouth, her face red and eyes watery. She was thinking of his family. They had lost a father and sister. “That hits home — I have a daughter,” she said.
Mejia was having breakfast with her friend Marcela Vasquez, 33. They grew up together playing basketball and watching Bryant, seeing him as a role model.
“It was his drive. His work ethic,” Vasquez said. “He was so inspiring.”
Mejia even took on the nickname “Kobe.”
“I still have her name saved on my phone as Kobe,” Vasquez said.
Around the world, political leaders, athletes and celebrities registered their grief and condolences on social media: Presidents Obama and Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Trevor Noah and Tom Brady, among many.
“Kobe Bryant, despite being one of the truly great basketball players of all time, was just getting started in life,” Trump wrote. “He loved his family so much, and had such strong passion for the future. The loss of his beautiful daughter, Gianna, makes this moment even more devastating.”
“Kobe Bryant was a giant who inspired, amazed, and thrilled people everywhere with his incomparable skill on the court — and awed us with his intellect and humility as a father, husband, creative genius, and ambassador for the game he loved,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “He will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles, and will be remembered through the ages as one of our greatest heroes.”
Those who knew him best grappled with how to express the shock of the loss.
“To have been such, particularly when he was young, to be a part of his life and to watch his career grow, watch him grow, this is one of the most tragic days of my life,” Jerry West, who as general manager of the Lakers first signed Bryant in 1996, told The Times. “I know somewhere along the way I guess I’ll come to grips with it. … This is going to take a long time for me.”
Magic Johnson told KCBS’s Jim Hill: “It’s just amazing that we were blessed to have a chance to know him, but also to see him play. But to me, his greatest joy was really after basketball, was being a husband and a father and being a coach of his daughter’s basketball team.
“The city needs heroes, Jim. We need our heroes to be here. And this is not a good day for the city of Los Angeles because we needed Kobe to still be around our kids who idolized him, the fan base who idolized him.”
Shaquille O’Neal, who led the Lakers to three championships with Bryant, tweeted that he was “SICK.” “There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of [losing] my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed.”
With Bryant as shooting guard and O’Neal as center, the Lakers won three consecutive NBA championships — in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
But he bickered with O’Neal, who was ultimately traded, possibly costing the team additional titles. He still racked up records, and scored 81 points against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006 — second in NBA history only to the 100 scored by Wilt Chamberlain in a 1962 game. The Lakers returned to form in 2009, with Bryant leading the team to championships that year and the next and securing his legacy as one of the sport’s best ever.
He won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012. He was an All-Star 18 times, second most in NBA history, and was the fourth highest all-time scorer with 33,643 points — surpassed for third place the night before his death by LeBron James.
“Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames.” Bryant wrote in his final tweet. “Much respect my brother.”
In Atlanta, Jay Mitchell, a 28-year-old audio engineer, rode with his girlfriend downtown Sunday afternoon to watch the Atlanta Hawks play the Washington Wizards at the State Farm Arena.
“Kobe was my idol growing up,” he said. “I’m sick right now.”
Mitchell nearly didn’t go to the Hawks game. But he imagined Bryant calling him soft, remembering his famous interactions with his Lakers teammate Dwight Howard.
“He would have been, “Dude, go to the game!”
So Mitchell, a Knicks fan from New York, put on his purple and gold jersey. “I had to represent somehow,” he said, putting a hand to the Lakers logo on his chest as a stream of basketball fans in red filed past him.
Although Bryant’s exact destination was not released, he was scheduled to coach a tournament game in Thousand Oaks at the Mamba Sports Academy, which bears his nickname.
Anthony Nolen, a boys coach from Victorville, said he saw Bryant coach a girls game on Saturday.
“They were down by 10 at the time,” Nolen said. “Kobe being Kobe, he wasn’t screaming at the refs, he wasn’t screaming at the players. He was poised. Him being down by 10, he was upset but as usual, he gave the other coach a Kobe stare to ensure him, you could beat me now as a team but not one on one.”
The tournament was canceled upon the news of Bryant’s death. “There were no players that wanted to continue,” Nolen said.
Bryant’s death also cast a pall over preparations for the Grammys.
Crews worked quickly to place Bryant’s rafter jerseys — Nos. 8 and 24 — side by side, illuminated by floodlights.
News of the crash dominated the rehearsal. Ariana Grande had just finished a lavish performance, and Billie Eilish was about to perform an acoustic song with her brother. But all eyes were on the jerseys at the other end of the floor, as staff and observers watched in disbelief.
Early in the evening’s ceremony, host Alicia Keys spoke about Bryant: “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Bryant’s fame and popularity spanned many cultures and locales — from Los Angeles to Italy, where he grew up, to Philadelphia, where he went to high school, to China, where he was beloved.
On the Chinese social media platform Weibo, “Kobe dies” shot to the top of trending posts, along with a hashtag “Can we restart 2020?” Many combined posts mourning Bryant’s death with grief about the growing Wuhan coronavirus epidemic.
The hashtag “eternal 4 a.m.” went viral, reflecting the time when news of the death came out in China as well as Bryant’s famed predawn workouts. He once answered a reporters here about the secret of his success: “Have you ever seen Los Angeles at 4 a.m.?”
“I’ve never seen Los Angeles at 4 a.m., but I heard the news of your death at 4 a.m.,” thousands of fans posted, many adding stories of staying up crying all night.
The Lakers were the first NBA team to broadcast in Korean, in 2013, prompting crowds in Seoul and Los Angeles to swarm karaoke bars and restaurants to catch Kobe in action — and to learn more about the sport through the intimacy of their native language.
“He’s one of these athletes that transcend race and nationality,” recalled Alex Kim, 47, a public relations executive in L.A. “The fact that the team participated in outreach to our community only made them more popular.”
Jesse Hiram, spinning rock en español hits Sunday at a restaurant in downtown Santa Ana, said he was “devastated.”
“Kobe represented the Southland and brought such positivity to us,” Hiram said.
Hiram said he worked for a couple of months as a security guard at Bryant’s gated community in Newport Coast in 2007. “He’d see we were sad or bored, so Kobe would usually bring us Jack-in-the-Box tacos, or leave us big tips. He was just so nice.”
At El Camino Real in Fullerton, the staff was “really sad,” said manager Rodolfo Garcia. Bryant patronized the Mexican restaurant for 20 years, a favorite of his and of his wife, a Fullerton native. If he couldn’t come in person, Bryant would have friends get big orders to take back to his Newport Coast mansion.
“He liked the carnitas and flan,” Garcia said. “He loved this place because people treated him like a normal person. Kobe would just stand in line, like anyone else. He’d tell us, ‘Don’t treat me like a star; I’m just a customer here.’”
Ryan Apfel, a USC student from Redondo Beach, broke down crying in his apartment. He put on his Kobe jersey, thought to himself, I have to pay my respects, and went to L.A. Live.
“Growing up in LA, it’s such a big diverse spread out city. One of the things that I realized growing up here that brought us together was the Lakers and Kobe,” Apfel said. “Even after he retired, this is a Kobe town.”
In Redondo Beach, Al Beck stood at the busy intersection of Grant Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, holding a neon-orange sign with one word he had written in black marker: “KOBE.”
Beck stands on the corner often, normally holding political signs. People often swear at him.
On Sunday, he said, pausing for several seconds to choke back tears, ”It’s been nothing but good vibes.”
Beck was watching golf Sunday morning and flipped over to the news to check for the latest on resident Trump’s impeachment trial when Bryant had died. He immediately covered up his political sign with the “KOBE” sign and rushed to the street corner.
Beck, originally from Philadelphia just like Bryant, initially didn’t like watching the young basketball phenom play, thinking he was too big of a ball hog.
It took Beck a few years to realize that was part of Bryant’s brilliance on the court.
“I don’t care what anybody says. If anybody’s got the ball, it’s going to be him. … He knew he had the ability to score whenever it was needed.”
Beck said he still couldn’t believe he would never watch Bryant play again. He was inspired by the amount of work Bryant put into his game, which, he said, no one will ever replicate.
He wiped his eyes.
“Fly, Kobe, fly.”
Funeral services are set for murdered Lowndes County, Al sheriff, ‘Big John’ Williams
We are sadden to report that Lowndes County, Alabama is mourning the senseless murder of Sheriff “Big John” Williams.
Sheriff “Big John” 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 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. “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 also well-respected by 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 regularly rode through the town and out in the county in his unmarked Chevy Tahoe. He would squawk the siren as he went by.
‘The sheriff is gone over loud music?’ Alabama sheriff shot and killed over loud music, witnesses and police say
“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 sketchy as to what happened Saturday night. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is handling the investigation. ALEA labeled William Chase Johnson, 18, as a suspect in the shooting Saturday night. Williams was shot around 8:15 p.m. Johnson walked up to the crime scene just after midnight, firearm in hand, and gave himself up after a manhunt that went on for hours.
Charles Benson says he was a witness to the shooting of Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams.
ALEA hasn’t commented on whether Williams was in uniform or if he was driving a marked or unmarked vehicle. Johnson is housed in the Elmore County Jail, charged with murder, according to jail records. No bond has been set.
Law enforcement sources and witnesses said Williams approached a truck at the QV and asked the person inside why his music was so loud. That’s when Williams was shot once in the head.
Charles Benson said he witnessed it all.
“Right there at Pump 8,” Benson said, standing in front of the store. “Big John comes up and asks the young man about the loud music, just like he has done hundreds of times before. Big John don’t take no foolishness.
“That’s when he got shot. I don’t understand it. The sheriff is gone over loud music? It just don’t seem right.”
“I just don’t understand it,” Curtis Lee said, filling up Sunday at the QV. “When I heard it last night, I knew it wasn’t anybody from Lowndes County that would do such a thing. It had to be somebody from outside. Nobody in Lowndes County wants to hurt the sheriff. He’s part of the community.”
Across the street and behind the courthouse at the New Salem Christian Church, the Rev. Willie Smith got ready for services.
“It’s praying time,” Smith said. “The sheriff was our sheriff. It’s quite sad. He was a servant to the community, having grown up here and making his work law enforcement. He was spiritual man, a deacon in his church.
“It’s praying time,” says the Rev.Smith. He says Sheriff John Williams “was a servant to the community.”
“When we had revival, the sheriff would lead devotions. He was just a good, good man. I don’t understand it. All I know is God is in control, God is in complete control.”
“We came up as deputies together,” said retired Prattville Police Chief Mark Thompson. “This is just devastating.”
Autauga County Sheriff Joe Sedinger described Williams as “a big teddy bear.”
“For his size, he was gentle,” Sedinger said. “He was full of compassion. He loved everybody. You just can’t say enough good things about John.”
Williams was always ready to come to the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, said Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin.
“Any time you needed help, John was there,” he said. “He was a friend to everyone.”
“I’m proud to say he was my friend,” Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson said. “He didn’t care if you were black or white, rich or poor. He took care of people. He knew everyone in the county. He always had a smile, he was always ready to serve.
“This is just a tragic end to a fine, fine man,” Johnson said. “I just can’t imagine Lowndes County without John Williams.”
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 was restrained in handcuffs and ankle chains. He appeared before Crenshaw County Circle Judge Tom Sport.
The entire process took less than five minutes. After Judge Sport told him of the murder charge against him, Johnson said he understood that charge and told the judge that he had not decided whether he was going to hire an attorney or need to have one appointed. Judge Sport set a no bond in the case.
Usually, Lowndes County District Judge Adrian Johnson handles first appearances. But 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 plainclothes officers were stationed throughout the courthouse. Several were seen carrying rifles or shotguns. Johnson is being housed in the Elmore County Jail.
Funeral services are officially set for Lowndes County sheriff, ‘Big John’ Williams.
A visitation and funeral will be held at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery on Monday, Dec. 2nd. Visitation will begin at 8 a.m. The funeral will follow the visitation at 11:00 a.m.
His body was being transported from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences in Montgomery to Bell Funeral Home in Hayneville.
A large procession of law enforcement vehicles escorted William’s body back home yesterday.
There was about twenty-four law enforcement vehicles from across the state in the procession to honor ‘Big John’ Williams.
Governor, Kay Ivey, has also ordered flags to be flown at half staff that day.
To our Prestige Family this one hits close to home for us, because we knew Big John. Please continue to keep his family in prayer, as well as the community of Lowndes County.
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