MOBILE, AL (WALA) -- A Mobile Police officer was shot and killed Tuesday night in Toulminville.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said Officer Justin Billa was shot as he approached a murder suspect in the area of Crawford Lane and Avondale Court near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
Police said the killer, identified as Robert Hollie, 72, killed his ex-wife, Fonda Poellnitz, 58, earlier Tuesday night near her home on West Ridge Road. Poellnitz's daughter said Hollie lived in a house on Avondale Court and that's where he encountered the police officer.
Minutes after Officer Billa was shot, Mobile Police officers surrounded the home and Hollie started firing more shot at them. Chief Battiste said his officers returned fire. About three hours later, police found Hollie dead inside the house.
Billa joined the Mobile Police Department in January 2016. He was named Officer of the Month in June 2016.
FOX10 News interviewed Billa the following month about making a difference and building relationships in the community.
"We need to go back to helping people instead of just taking them to jail and creating bigger problems," Officer Billa said in July 2016. "That's my ideal of good policing and I feel like that's what the chief is working towards."
During that interview, Billa also told FOX10 News that he shares a moment with his wife every day before he goes to work.
"She tells me she loves me every day before I leave for work. And I make sure I do the same."
Officer Justin Billa leaves behind a wife and a 1-year-old son.
Wednesday morning, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson issued the following statement: “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."
Also, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement. The governor said:
"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."
Ivey ordered flags across Alabama to be displayed at half-staff to honor Billa's life and sacrifice.
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