A former ‘police officer of the month’ in Alabama who had only been on the police force for two years was shot and killed earlier this week after a murder suspect barricaded himself in his house. The shooter was identified as Robert Hollie, and he also died. It is unclear at this time if she was shot by officers or committed suicide.
The killed officer was identified as Justin Billa. He joined the force in January 2016 and won the Mobile, Alabama Police Departments ‘Officer of the Month’ award in the summer of 2016, according to Police Chief Lawrence Battiste.
Battiste told the media that Billa had a high degree of attention to detail and showed a lot of commitment to providing a high level of law enforcement service to the people of Mobile.
The deadly incident began when a woman was found dead in a road on the evening of Feb. 18. Police identified Hollie, who was the killed woman’s ex-husband, as a possible suspect in the killing. They went to a home in the neighborhood of Toulminville that was associated with the man.
Billa and several other police officers were setting up a perimeter around the home when Billa was fatally shot. After he shot Billa, the suspect barricaded himself in the home as SWAT units poured into the area. The barricade situation was over after two hours when the subject died. It is possible he shot himself but this has not been confirmed.
The killed woman’s daughter stated there was ‘bad blood’ between her mother and Hollie. She said that he fought with her constantly and did not love her.
Police officers were seen early today consoling and embracing one another outside the University of South Alabama Medical Center before the officer’s death was announced.
Two councilmen for Mobile offered thoughts and prayers after the incident. One of them noted that he is concerned about Billa’s family and also concerned about other city police officers who put their lives on the line for Mobile.
In 2016, Billa was interviewed by a local TV station after he was named Officer of the Month. He noted that police need to go back to trying to help people and not just hauling them off to jail and making bigger problems. That was his idea of good policing and he felt that is what their police chief wanted for Mobile. Billa was noted in his commendation for his successful investigation of robberies committed by a man he later placed under arrest. The announcement of the award cited his commitment and attention to detail.
Billa also said he always takes a moment with his wife before he leaves for his job, because of the chance that something could happen. He said during the interview that she told him she loves him every day before he left and he did the same. Their son was approximately two years old when Billa passed away.
Other Recent Cop Killings Show Rising Trend
Unfortunately, Billa has not been the only police officer to be killed in the line of duty this month. Another cop killing that received national publicity was the one involving a high ranking Chicago police officer who was shot and killed last week. Commander Paul Bauer, a veteran of 30 years in the Chicago police force, was killed at 2:30 PM last Tuesday after he confronted a suspect that had run from other officers.
Bauer was not in his uniform when he was shot. He was listening to his police radio when he heard that several officers were chasing a suspect. His death is the fifth time that a police officer has been shot and killed in a little more than a week.
The suspect was placed under arrest soon after the shooting and a gun was found on his person.
According to media reports, tactical officers approached the suspect because of suspicious behavior. But when they confronted him, he fought and took off running. Bauer was at the nearby James R. Thompson Center that houses IL government offices, and saw the suspect running. Bauer was able to catch him but the confrontation got physical fast. That is when the suspect took out a good and fired at the officer several times.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson told the media that he had spoken with the slain officer’s wife and daughter. He asked the city of Chicago to keep the family in their thoughts and prayers.
Bauer’s last few seconds of life were apparently captured on police scanner traffic as police officers were looking in the area for the suspect. Officers stated over the radio that the suspect was on the run. Another police officer radioed that he had seen the suspect near the Thompson Center. That is when Bauer’s radio went silent. The dispatcher asked for the officer to respond several times but he did not.
A few minutes later, Bauer was found in a stairwell. There was a radio laying next to him and he was unconscious.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement last week stating that Bauer stood for the high ideals of the city and the police department. He knew it was his duty to serve and protect the city. His death, the mayor said, is a reminder that police officers have a dangerous duty and choose to accept it to ensure public safety.
The shooting was the 12th this year around the country that led to an officer’s death. Others have occurred in Colorado, Ohio and Texas.
Another recent shooting occurred in Ohio when two senior officers were killed when they were responding to a domestic dispute. The two officers were shot and killed by a suspect who should not have had a gun because he had previous felony convictions.
In Colorado, a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso County who had just marked his 11th year on the force was killed Feb. 5 in a shooting that also wounded three other officers.