One year ago, life changed forever for everyone who knew and loved Huntsville Police officer Billy Clardy III.
While this year has been tough on many people, the Clardy family had the added burden of this loss. While they wait for justice, those who served by his side vow to keep the decorated Officer's legacy alive.
"About the time it happened I was just getting home from work, and I didn't hear any of the radio chatter, but I did receive a phone call, and I didn't know who it was. We had, as a family being in law enforcement, we had a little ordeal that we would all do. Contact each other and let each other know we're OK, and there was one missing that day," said Sgt. Tim Clardy Jr.
One year later, Tim Clardy Jr. still vividly remembers not hearing from his cousin, STAC Agent Billy Clardy III. Cousins by birth, the two became more like brothers during their career in law enforcement.
"We have a history of law enforcement in our family. It goes back decades. He's the oldest grandchild, so he was the cool cousin that was around during the holidays. It was a pretty close bond. Long talks, encouraging each other to move forward. Encouraging each other to get outside the comfort zone and pushing forward to make the community better," he explained.
Billy Clardy III worked as a narcotics agent with the department at the time of his death. He was shot during a drug task force operation. Investigators said when the suspect, LaJeromeny Brown, arrived at a home on Levert Street he drew a gun and shot Clardy.
Lt. Tony McElyea, his supervisor, arrived on scene shortly after it happened.
"When I got in my car, I turned my radio on. I heard something was wrong. Knowing it was probably something bad," he said.
One year later, he can't shake that memory, but he chooses to focus on what Clardy brought to the department and the community he served.
"He was a dear friend. He's somebody that I considered family. On top of that, I worked my entire career with him, so it's definitely been hard this last year. The only thing we can do is honor him by continuing to work with the work ethic that he had, with the professionalism, and honor him in that way," McElyea explained.
McElyea described the bond his team shared from the countless operations they worked together.
"It's a brotherhood. They're with each other more than they're with their only families. They're with each other sometimes 16, 17 hours a day because there is no set hours in narcotics work, so when you're with someone that much you can't help but to grow a special bond," he said.
The department has stood by the family's side the past year.
"In the coming days, months, and years, we're going to be right by your side. Any time that you need us. Billy had our six for years and now it's our turn to have yours," McElyea said back at Clardy's funeral in December of 2019.
Those words still stand true a year later.
"Time goes by way too fast. He's constantly on our minds. His family is constantly on our minds. We want to make sure we are there for them, and it's unbelievable it has been a year already," he said.
Both men remember Clardy's dedication to the job.
"In everything that he did he tried to improve the quality of life of the people around him. Whether it was at home, whether it was at work in the community, he always strived to make it better. Might not be better for him, but it would be better for the people around him," his cousin, Clardy Jr., said.
"It wasn't just enforcement. He got to know the members of the community. He took a very strong interest in making sure he knew the people of his community in the zones that he worked. That's why everybody that you knew that knew Billy considered him a friend because he was one of those people. He had an infectious personality, a great smile and everyone that knew him loved him," McElyea said.
Both, in disbelief it's been a year since they've seen him.
"It seems like yesterday. When you have a problem or an issue that you normally call and talk or advice in situations that you come into, and just the bond that we have and the relationship that we had. There are times when you reach down and you want to call them and you want advice. That's the rough time, and in the past year there's long days. In the whole big scheme of things, it doesn't seem like it's been a year," Sgt. Clardy Jr. added.
The man accused of killing STAC Agent Billy Clardy III appeared in court last week. LaJeromeny Brown is charged with capital murder and faces the death penalty. Huntsville police arrested him moments after the shooting on Levert street in Huntsville. The Madison County District Attorney's Office said it expects the case to go before a grand jury in the spring of 2021.