HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville police officer and STAC agent Billy Clardy III died in the line of duty on December 6, 2019. He was shot and killed during a drug bust operation. Two weeks after his death, Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray talked exclusively to WHNT News 19 about what happened that day and the tough times that are ahead.
Chief McMurray sat down with me at HPD headquarters on Wheeler Avenue. It was a one on one conversation about the loss of a hero. “He was a servant. He cared about what he did,” Chief McMurray said. “This wasn’t about the paycheck with Billy. If it was, he wouldn’t have wanted to be a member of the STAC team.” The chief added, “Those guys who do what they do in that unit are unique and they’re at the tip of the spear.”
Billy Clardy was not your average officer on the street. He grew up here. He knew the neighborhoods and the people who live there. And he looked after the homeless. “He knew where they were. He knew where their tents were located,” McMurray said, “He knew how to set up and survive the winter and get them to warming stations.”
Clardy also kept an eye on gang activity. “Billy knew everything about these little subsets we call them, little neighborhood names of the groups of the kids and the teenagers who want to be gang members,” the chief said, “He would go out and talk to them and try to mentor those kids to make a difference.”
The past few weeks have been tough on Chief McMurray and his department. “Yeah, about the last 12, 13 years now, we’ve had four officers pass away on duty. So, three of them have been killed and one of them died on duty as the result of a car crash,” he said, “So yeah, burying your own police officers is tough, tough on us.”
I asked him to take us back to that night when he got the call and he found out he’d lost an officer. “Well, I’d actually received a call 15 minutes before this telling me of the operation that was about to take place, that they had preplanned it. They knew it was coming down and they give me a heads up on large scale operations, so I knew it was about to happen,” he recalled, “And, unfortunately, I had my radio on when I heard the call come in asking for assistance that the worst thing we could possibly dream of had actually happened.“
Fellow STAC team members rushed to their wounded brother’s side and got him to Huntsville Hospital. “The agents did everything they could do. They got him there just as quickly as they could and of course, we locked the area down and the offender was captured right there at the house,” the chief said, ”He tried to get away.” But they got their man.
A memorial outside HPD headquarters stands as a reminder that some make the ultimate sacrifice. “We all give a little bit,” McMurray said, “but every once-in-a-while some of us give it all.” Billy Clardy gave it all. Looking down, the chief said, “He did.”
The road ahead will be tough.
Billy Clardy III third was buried next to his father at Maple Hill Cemetery. Billy Clardy Jr. was also a Huntsville police officer who died in the line of duty in 1978. Next year, Agent Clardy's name will be added to two different police memorials in Huntsville and one in Washington, D.C.
That is not going to be easy for anyone. Chief McMurray paused for a moment choking back tears and said, “Right, especially when you realize his dad's name is right next to his own, so yeah, tough times.”
Chief McMurray says he's overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the community and from across the nation. Two funds have been set up to collect money for the family. You can contribute to the Billy Clardy Memorial Fund through Redstone Federal Credit Union, or you give through the Huntsville Police Citizen Foundation. The chief adds they'll continue to raise money to help pay for a pending medical procedure for one of officer Clardy's children.