Man suspected of murdering officer had been released from prison early, was on probation

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Augusta, Georgia- A Richmond County deputy was shot and killed last Tuesday night while conducting a routine patrol with a narcotics unit in within the city. Now police say the suspect allegedly involved in the shooting was recently released from prison and was also on probation at the time of the deputy’s death.

According to Sergeant William McCarty with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, investigator Cecil Ridley was gunned down at a gas station on the corner of 12th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Apparently, Ridley was conducting proactive patrols within the area in order to curb gun violence in the zone, McCarty said.

It was around 8:30 pm that night when gunfire had erupted about after officers encountered several people at the Augusta Mart gas station. It was at that time that Alvin Hester had allegedly shot and killed Ridley.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations had released information pertaining to the events that occurred on November 19th, stating that another officer first tried to confront Hester inside the gas station and Hester turned to leave.

He allegedly shot Ridley as the deputy was walking through the front doors, Georgia Bureau of Investigations special agent in charge Pat Morgan said in a news release.

The other officer returned fire as Hester continued into the parking lot, where he was confronted again. The remaining officer inside the gas station as well as another outside fired at Hester, striking him.

Hester was taken to the hospital for treatment and was then taken into jail this past Friday.

As we begin to learn more about the amazing life and work of Investigator Cecil Ridley following his shooting death during a patrol late last week, we’re also learning more about the man accused of the crime.

Hester had apparently just gotten out of prison back in June of 2018 after getting released from what was supposed to be a two-year sentence, but wound up only serving 7 months.

Had he served his entire time; we likely wouldn’t be discussing the death of Cecil Ridley.

At the time when he allegedly gunned down the deputy, Hester was serving a 5-year probation term as well. Heston is expected to be making his first appearance in court today regarding the charges put against him for the death of Cecil Ridley.

Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church is less than 3 blocks from where Investigator Ridley was shot and killed and Deacon Joe Francis has been there at the church for 23 years.

It’s not uncommon for people to look to the local church during times of grief and loss, and Francis shared some scripture about communities that are in mourning:

“[The scriptures] say that if the community hurts then you hurt, not just the deacon or the pastor or anybody, but everybody in the community hurts.”

According to the obituary of Ridley, the following was mentioned about his career in law enforcement and also his prior military service:

“Cecil was born in Augusta Georgia and was a dedicated member of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office with a total of 17 years of service to the Augusta community where he served as a Patrol Deputy, Special Operations Deputy, and most recently as a Narcotics Investigator. Cecil was a proud veteran of the United States Army and was a member of the Police Benevolent Association of Georgia.”

It’s disheartening to fathom that such a mindless and cowardly act can rob this world of a true hero. People like Ridley lived to serve his community and his country. He was a husband, a father, a grandfather, and also a protector.

Cecil Ridley leaves behind his wife, Sharon Belton Ridley, who is also a deputy. He also leaves behind his two sons, Domonique Ridley, and Christian Ridley and his four daughters, Jessica Ridley, Daphne Ragsdale, Alexis Ridley, and Cierra Ridley.

In the meantime in Alabama, in a stunning turn of events in the latest tragic death of a law enforcement official, we’ve learned that the alleged gunman is the son of an officer.

While there are few details about the suspect, he also has a criminal history, with his most recent arrest in August for possession of brass knuckles and minor in possession of alcohol.

Here’s the back story.

Alabama authorities identified the suspected gunman as 18-year-old William Chase Johnson.

The news comes after initial reports confirmed the shooting at a gas station in the Lowndes County seat of Hayneville, around 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Montgomery, according to ABC 7.

During the interaction between Johnson and Sheriff John “Big John” Williams, Johnson allegedly shot the lawman at a QV gas station.

Police said after the sheriff was fatally shot by the teen, he then stole the sheriff’s patrol car and took off running.

It happened around 8:15 p.m. local time.

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Man suspected of murdering officer had been released from prison early, was on probation

 

A Blue Alert was issued to try and bring the cop killer to justice, but police say the manhunt for Johnson ended just after midnight when he reportedly walked back to the site of the initial shooting, still armed with a handgun, and turned himself over to authorities.

“Details as to how he fled the scene and then reappeared at the scene, all that’s going to be investigated,” said Sgt. Steve Jarrett, according to WSFA-TV.

 

Social media quickly came alive with memorials for the fallen sheriff. 

“I’m saddened to hear about Sheriff Big John Williams, who was tragically killed this evening in the line of duty.  Through his service to our country in the United States Marine Corps and his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a release Saturday night.

 

She said he will not be forgotten.

“He will be remembered as a consummate professional and pillar of his community. I offer my prayers and deepest sympathies to his family and to the men and women of the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department.”

 

Local media outlets report that Williams was born and raised in Lowndes County and served his country in the Marine Corps. 

He graduated from Calhoun High School in 1976, and was known as “Big John” because of his height.

According to the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office website, he:

“Always wanted to make a difference in his community and felt there was no better way to help his community than to protect and serve them in law enforcement.”

He started volunteering as a reserve deputy in 1978.  For three years in the 1980s he was in the Hayneville Police Department.  Then he took a position full-time with the sheriff’s office. 

In 1990, he was appointed to chief deputy and served in this capacity until leaving the department in 2009… then ran for sheriff in 2010.  He’s served in that role since he won.


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