SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Late Tuesday night a Mobile police officer was killed in the line of duty.
Justin Billa, a member of the Mobile Police Department, was killed as he approached a suspect’s home who was believed to have shot and killed his ex-wife earlier in the night.
He is survived by his wife and one-year-old son.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson released statement in wake of the tragedy:
Today we mourn the loss of Officer Justin Billa who was killed last night while responding to a call for service. Officer Billa had been with the Mobile Police Department since 2016 and served our citizens with honor and distinction during that time. Officer Billa’s death affects more than just the Mobile Police Department. The death of a first responder in the line of duty is a loss that affects the entire city. This morning we grieve for the family and friends of Officer Billa who have lost a father, a son, a husband and a trusted colleague. I offer my prayers in addition to the full support of the city as we deal with this tragedy.
SylacaugaNews.com spoke to Sylacauga Police Chief Kelley Johnson about the shooting. He explained this particular officer killing affects his department more than others. He said it is different to watch TV and hear about the same type of event in another part of the country, but things change and a new perspective is gained when a police tragedy hits this close to home.
“It’s a sad situation that we even have to talk about it, but we are having to talk about it more and more,” Johnson explained. According to the SPD Chief, police officer killings are up by 117% through two months of 2018 from the same time period in 2017. He also said there have been law enforcement officers murdered in the line of duty already this year.
“These incidents affect our officers and officers across the country. It affects how they might react to a situation because they see this can happen anywhere at anytime,” Johnson said. “What you have to do is always remind officers to rely on their training. That’s really all you can do.”
When asked about a change in procedure when approaching potentially dangerous situations, Johnson said his department tries to learn a lesson from all situations, but sometimes there is nothing that can be changed.
In situations like the one just three hours south in Mobile, SPD is prepared to handle repercussions as best it can. Johnson said there is always counseling available and always a chaplain officers can go to in order to be helped through a tragic situation.
Wednesday morning, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement directing all flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Officer Billa.
Alabama is mourning the loss of one of our own Mobile Police Officer Justin Billa who was killed in the line of duty. My prayers are with his wife, young child and the city of Mobile. I’m directing flags across Alabama to be displayed at half-staff to honor his life & sacrifice. pic.twitter.com/kBoUm8DKN0
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) February 21, 2018
To donate to Officer Billa’s memorial fund, click here.