A former “Police Officer of the Month” who had only been on the job for two years was gunned down late Tuesday night after a murder suspect barricaded himself in his Alabama home, officials said.
The shooter, identified as Robert Hollie, also succumbed, though it was unclear if he was killed by officers or shot himself.
The slain policeman was identified as Justin Billa, who joined the force in January 2016 and won the Mobile Police Department’s “Officer of the Month” award in June 2016, MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste said.
Battiste told AL.com that Billa had “great attention to detail skills and depicts commitment daily to a professional level of law enforcement service to the city of Mobile.”
The incident began when a woman was were dead in the middle of the road in Tuesday night.
Police promptly identified Hollie, the slain woman’s ex-husband, as a “person of interest” in that killing and went to a home in the Toulminville neighborhood associated with Hollie, Battiste said.
“He didn’t love my momma.”
Billa and other officers were establishing a perimeter around Hollie’s residence when Billa was shot, police said.
After shooting Billa, Hollie barricaded himself in the home as SWAT divisions descended on the region, police said. The roadblock situation ended approximately two hours later when the suspect died.
The slain woman’s daughter, Octavia Poellnitz, identified her mother as Fonda Poellnitz and said there was bad blood between her and Hollie.
“He didn’t love my momma, ” Poellnitz said.
Officers were assured early Wednesday embracing and consoling one another outside University of South Alabama Medical Center before Billa’s death was announced.
Councilman Fred Richard, who represents District 1, and Councilman Levon Manzie of District 2, offered their thoughts and prayers following the incident, WKRG reported.
“I am concerned about the officer’s family, and I’m concerned about the rest of the officers who on a daily basis put their lives on the lives for the city, ” Richard said.
In 2016, FOX1 0 interviewed Billa after he was named Officer of the Month.
“We need to go back to helping people instead of merely taking them to incarcerate and creating bigger problems, ” Billa said at the time. “That’s my ideal of good policing and I feel like that’s what the chief is working towards.”
Billa said he always shared “a moment with his wife” before he leaves for work.
“She tells me she loves me every day before I leave for run. And I make sure I do the same, ” said Billa, who also had an newborn son.
Twelve other policemen have been killed purposely in the line of duty in so far this year, according to a tally on the Officer Down Memorial Page . In 2017, 52 policemen were intentionally killed, including 46 who died by gunfire, according to the website.
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report .
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