HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s been three years since Huntsville Police Department (HPD) officer Billy Clardy, III was shot and killed in the line of duty during a planned drug sting operation.
Clardy, an agent on HPD’s Strategic Counter-Drug Team (STAC) Unit, was killed during an operation where officers were attempting to buy 100 pounds of marijuana from the man accused of killing Clardy, now 44-year-old LaJeromeny Brown.
According to testimony at Brown’s preliminary hearing in January 2020, two officers were inside the house waiting to arrest Brown when he entered. Brown entered the home and encountered Clardy, who was shot twice.
He died later that night from his injuries.
Brown now faces a capital murder charge and prosecutors have made it known that they are seeking the death penalty.
At a court hearing in 2020, HPD Investigator Chris Hines described his investigation of the December 6 events, testifying to the following:
The STAC unit reportedly decided to target Brown after he was identified as a target after an undercover drug buy of 3 pounds of marijuana took place in the parking lot of Parkway Place Mall.
Drug agents decided to set up the larger purchase on Levert Street to arrest Brown.
Hines said Clardy and one other officer were in the house waiting for Brown to show up. They were in a room off to the side of the front door.
The initial plan was for Brown to park across the street, and for officers to arrest him before he even got to the house. However, Hines said plans had to be adjusted when Brown parked in the front yard of the house. Brown carried a suitcase and a couple of other bags filled with marijuana onto the porch of the home.
Hines says that as Brown approached the house, Clardy and the other officer were told he was approaching the front door. Clardy emerged from the bedroom first as Brown opened the front door.
Hines testified that no words were exchanged before Brown fired eight shots using a 9 mm Glock pistol that had apparently been modified to be fully automatic. It carried a 30-round magazine. Clardy was hit twice. Brown ran from the home and the officer with Clardy fired one shot at Brown’s truck, thinking that’s where Brown went.
Some officers on the scene tended to Clardy while others pursued Brown; all had been waiting in vehicles as backup. Police arrested Brown about 100 yards from where he’d tossed his gun, according to Hines.
While in custody, Brown told police he was in the area looking at foreclosed houses. Hines said he wouldn’t answer any questions about the incident.
The defense asked Hines about police identifying themselves. They suggested Brown was fearful that he was being robbed. But prosecutors got Hines to point out that the vest Clardy was wearing said “POLICE” on the front.
Hines said Clardy didn’t have a body cam on but the officer with him did. He says that footage also confirms his testimony in the preliminary hearing.
At the hearing, Hines testified the drugs found on the porch and inside Brown’s truck totaled approximately 106 pounds of marijuana all packed in suitcases and trash bags.
Brown, a native of Chattanooga, has a long record of criminal charges, primarily in Hamilton County, Tennessee, dating back more than two decades.
Clardy was a decorated U.S. Army veteran and had received multiple commendations as a police officer. He’d been with HPD since 2005.
Clardy was also well-known for his close work with Huntsville’s homeless population. His death led to an outpouring of grief and pledges of support for his family. Then-Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray called Clardy a hero.
Brown has been held without bond since his arrest. A trial date has been set for October 16, 2023.
On the two-year anniversary of Clardy’s death, Lt. Tony McElyea described him as “an officer that every officer should strive to be like,” saying that there isn’t a day that goes by he doesn’t think about his friend and colleague.
McElyea says the men and women on the STAC team visit Clardy’s gravesite every year on the anniversary of his death: “We speak to him, we visit with him. We’re together as a team.”
STAC Agent Billy Clardy III’s name is etched right beside his father’s at the Officer Memorial outside of HPD, serving as a testimony for generations to come, honoring the sacrifice he made serving and protecting the citizens of Huntsville.