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Weekend Digest- November 24, 2019

1. Sheriff John Williams killed in line-of-duty

  • Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams was fatally shot Saturday evening and an 18-year-old suspect was taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt.
  • Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement that Williams was “tragically killed” in the line of duty and that she offered her prayers and sympathy to his family and the county sheriff’s department.
  • The suspect in custody was as 18-year-old William Chase Johnson. Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham initially told news outlets that Williams was shot at a gas station.
  • The tall sheriff was known as “Big John.” Ivey paid tribute to him online, writing that in his years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps and “his many years working in law enforcement, he dedicated his life to keeping other people safe.”
  • Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a statement late Saturday night saying that Williams was the fifth law enforcement officer to die in the line-of-duty this year.
  • You can read the whole story HERE.

2. Graddick: Clarifying the roles at Pardons and Paroles.

  • On Friday we published a story that reported on the number of paroles being granted since the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles resumed hearings this month.
  • Those numbers are down, partly because there haven’t been many non-violent offenders up for parole.
  • Executive Director Charlie Graddick, whom Gov. Kay Ivey appointed to take over earlier this year, has a tough-on-crime reputation and his rhetoric at Pardons and Paroles has sometimes lived up to it, leading some in our story to be critical of him.
  • This morning Graddick has penned his own piece explaining his role in the process and clarifying for critics the difference between the Board of Pardons and Paroles and his executive office, which they’ve dubbed the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
  • Graddick says he holds no influence, nor interferes with the voting process of the three board members who ultimately approve parole.
  • Here is an excerpt:
“How I may feel about a parole case one way or the other or my opinions have not nor will they ever be communicated or given the Board on any case. 
“Yes, I am aware they likely know I am a believer that violent criminals should be closely examined to assure public safety. They are charged with determining if that individual can return as a responsible member of society and not harm others in any way. 
“There’s nothing wrong with encouraging the use of common sense. And those who believe parole is an inmate’s right – they are just wrong.”
  • Read Judge Graddick’s full op-ed HERE.
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3. Jones bill aims to fight teacher shortage

  • U.S. Senator Doug Jones introduced legislation on Friday aimed to to help alleviate the teacher shortage crisis in Alabama and other states through competitive grants.
  • The Classrooms Reflecting Communities Act would authorize grants to establish “Grow Your Own” programs which would recruit teacher candidates from the surrounding community and support them as they work towards receiving teaching certification.
  • The grants, Jones said in a recent phone call with the media, can be used for various needs like supplementing pay or teacher training, all of which is left up to the individual getting the grant.
  • Fifty nine school districts in Alabama would be eligible for these grants.
  • The lack of qualified teachers in Alabama classrooms has been a growing problem for the state.
  • In the 2017-2018 school year, there were more than 1,700 teachers in grades seven through 12 who were not certified to teach the English, math, social studies, science or special education classes they were assigned.
  • Read my full story HERE.

4. Officer convicted of manslaughter

  • Jurors in Dale County on Friday convicted a Montgomery police officer of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in 2016.
  • The jury returned the verdict against Aaron Cody Smith on the lesser charge for the shooting death of 58-year-old Gregory Gunn, according to reports from news outlets. Prosecutors had charged Smith with murder.
  • Smith shot and killed Gunn after he fled during a pat-down. The officer had stopped Gunn for a random stop and frisk as Gunn was walking home around 3 a.m.
  • Smith had a Bible in front of him at the defense table as jurors walked into the courtroom, and Gunn’s relatives stood as the verdict was read. Some in the courtroom cried.
  • A deputy led Smith out of the courtroom afterward, and Smith resigned from the Montgomery Police Department. He had been on paid leave since the killing.
  • Read the full story HERE.
  • Read more from inside the courtroom via the Advertiser’s Melissa Brown and Kirsten Fiscus HERE.

5. The week in good news

Rosa Parks Commemoration Events Happening Next Week
  • December 1 will mark the 64th anniversary of Rosa Parks arrest that ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
  • Last year the Legislature made Dec. 1 Rosa Parks Day, which is the first holiday in Alabama to honor a woman.
  • In Montgomery next week there will be several citywide commemorations for Rosa Parks including a community unity breakfast and unity walk on Saturday, A Rosa Parks Statue dedication on Sunday and free admission to the Rosa Parks museum on Monday.
  • You can read more about the events and activities by visiting


ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama sheriff shot, killed in line of duty

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Graddick: Clarifying the roles at Pardons and Paroles.
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Less than 8% of all Paroles were granted in November
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Alabama jury convicts officer of manslaughter in shooting
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Family of black Alabama man killed by police filing suit
ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Daily News Digest – November 22, 2019
AL.COM – Lowndes County Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams shot and killed; 18-year-old suspect surrenders
AL.COM – 15-year-old arrested for making threats against Alabama high school
AL.COM – Alabama Department of Corrections investigating 2 inmate deaths
AL.COM – 2nd suspect arrested in Aniah Blanchard case, DA says
AL.COM – Native American costumes for Thanksgiving draw parent complaint at Alabama school
AL.COM – Columnist Kyle Whitmire: Forget the future, GOP. It’s Miller time!
AL.COM – Columnist Frances Coleman: Do we really remember what we think we remember about JFK’s assassination?
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Jones doubles down on keeping whistleblower secret: ‘People’s lives could be in jeopardy’
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Grants help restore Alabama longleaf pine forests, grasslands
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Consul General from Netherlands visits Alabama
YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Bloomberg spending almost $500k in Alabama as part of massive ad buy
WHNT – Major push happening for Alabama to start funding public transportation
DOTHAN FIRST – High rates of HIV cases reported in rural Alabama
WAAY – African-American males make up 2 percent of teacher workforce; Alabama A&M is trying to change that
TIMES DAILY – Work at UNA planetarium should be completed first of year
TIMES DAILY – Less than 8% of all paroles were granted in November.
TIMES DAILY – The Times Daily: Public benefits from stricter decommissioning rules.
GADSDEN TIMES – The Gadsden Times: Series spotlighting Etowah jail will cause stir.
ANNISTON STAR – Economy’s good, but poorest still struggle, charity officials say.
ANNISTON STAR – Columnist Phillip Tutor: The hungry students at Calhoun County’s schools.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams shot, killed. Suspect caught after four-hour search.
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – When the fight ends, where do Alabama Democrats begin?
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Three days honor Rosa Parks’ stand for freedom in Montgomery
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Contributors Catherine Flowers and George McGraw: Two million Americans are in a water crisis; some of them are your neighbors
WASHINGTON POST – Trump’s GOP support hardens despite impeachment testimony
WASHINGTON POST – Justice Ginsburg hospitalized in Baltimore with possible infection
WASHINGTON POST – Democrats are vying to win over the youngest generation of their most important voting bloc
WASHINGTON POST – John Bolton resurfaces on Twitter, claiming the White House locked him out
WASHINGTON POST – Malls are dying. The thriving ones are spending millions to reinvent themselves
NEW YORK TIMES – 26 States Are Spending $350 Million on 2020 Census Efforts
NEW YORK TIMES – Columnist Nicholas Kristof: Venezuela’s Kids Are Dying. Are We Responsible?

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