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Priceville police chief to retire in September

By Michael Wetzel

For the Enquirer

Two months after being wounded in a shootout, Priceville’s police chief has announced plans to retire in September, and the town’s mayor said he’ll begin the search for a new chief in May.

Mayor Sam Heflin said Police Chief Rick Williams, a 22-year veteran with the department, is not leaving because of the Jan. 24 shootout. Williams was shot and wounded by a Priceville homeowner who was shot by officers and later died at a Decatur hospital.

Williams, 62, was treated and released with non-life-threatening injuries to his head after the shootout in the Cove Creek subdivision. As standard procedure, Williams and another officer were placed on administrative leave with pay while the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency investigated the shooting, but both have returned to active status. Williams hasn’t returned to the office and is using vacation time and sick leave to reach his retirement date, the mayor said.

“After much prayer and soul searching, I’ve decided that my last day in law enforcement will be Sept. 30. The good Lord spared me for a purpose. From this day forward, I plan on advocating policies that will hopefully save lives on the battlefield our officers fight on daily starting with my survival story,” Williams wrote on his social media page.

“I pray the good Lord keeps you all safe, not only physically, but mentally as well. By the time I get through the process of having the lead removed from my body, September should be very close.”

Heflin said Williams will be sorely missed and he wishes his chief and friend well in retirement.

“I was on the City Council at the time and was a liaison with the Police Department when we hired Rick. It was a good hire for the town,” Heflin said. “His retirement has nothing to do with what happened in January. He told me it is just time to retire.”

Williams joined the Police Department in June 2000 and five years later was promoted to corporal. In 2014, he was promoted to sergeant, and in 2018 was named police chief, according to the city’s social media page.

Heflin said he hopes to have application notices for Williams’ position published in early May. “I think we can have someone hired by June 1,” the mayor said. He added that the next chief could be an internal hire or somebody from outside the department. “I’m not rushing it,” he said.

Sgt. Jason Wilbanks is the acting police chief, Heflin said.

Heflin said the town’s 10-member police force is down one patrol officer at this time.

He said in recent years the number of applicants for Police Department vacancies has dwindled. He said about eight years ago his office might receive 20 applicants. Now that number might be four or five, he said.