South Georgia police officer becomes state’s first to die in the line of duty in 2023

Credit: Cairo police

Credit: Cairo police

Master Patrol Officer Clarence “CJ” Williams, who served the small, South Georgia town of Cairo, died Saturday while chasing a suspect, becoming the state’s first officer to die in the line of duty this year, according to the police department.

“He joined the department in 2020 and quickly gained the respect and love of all that met him,” the Cairo police department said in a social media post.

A Miami native, Williams moved to Cairo when he was 5 years old, his family said. He was assisting a Grady County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop when the subject ran away, according to media reports. Williams and the deputy were running after the suspect when he collapsed. He was 23.

“CJ graduated from Cairo High School in 2017 and was a Syrupmaker football player, number #20!” his mother posted on a GoFundMe page. “Ever since then, he had his heart set on serving his community and knew his purpose was to make a difference. CJ talked about how law enforcement had a negative reputation, and he knew that it was time to step up and make a positive impact.”

A former principal posted on the police department’s Facebook page about his memories of Williams.

“He was a model student,” Kermit Gilliard Jr. said. “Our community has lost a great young man. Prayers for his sweet mother, family, and our community.”

In 2020, Williams graduated from the police academy and went to work serving his community, his family said.

The Officer Down Memorial page, which tracks law enforcement deaths, named Williams the first officer in both the state and the nation to die in the line of duty.

For Cairo, located near the Georgia-Florida line and about 60 miles west of Valdosta, it was the second time an officer died in the line of duty. The other happened in 1907, when City Marshal Eugene Cargell was shot to death, according to the Officer Down website.

In 2022, five Georgia law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty, including two Cobb County deputies who were shot. Three others were killed in car crashes. Five other officers died from medical issues, according to the Officer Down website.

The funeral for Williams will be held Saturday in Cairo.