More than 15 agencies were involved in the Wednesday manhunt for the man who shot and killed Anniston officer Justin Sollohub. Now they will honor their fallen colleague with a procession from Huntsville to Gray-Brown Funeral Home in Anniston.
“If citizens want to come out and be involved this morning, they’re more than welcome to,” Anniston Sgt. Fred Forsythe said.
Officers asked that motorists on U.S. 431 yield to the procession, which is expected to be on the highway in this area between approximately 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
The autopsy on Sollohub’s body was performed in Huntsville at the Department of Forensic Sciences.
Meanwhile Sollohub’s alleged killer remains in custody in the Etowah County Jail. Joshua Russell, 25, is charged with capital murder for shooting Sollohub in the head during a chase Wednesday morning, police said.
As the Calhoun County community mourns the death of 27-year-old Sollohub, Anniston police are working to ensure they build an airtight case against Russell.
“We’re moving forward with the case,” Anniston Capt. Richard Smith said. “We’re doing everything we can to put it together to make it an unshakable case.”
Russell was found hiding in a wooded area near the intersection of 19th Street and McCoy Avenue around 7 p.m. Wednesday, police officials said. His arrest was preceded by an eight-hour manhunt that included assistance from agencies in northeast Alabama.
Smith said Anniston investigators were relatively certain Russell was in the area because police responded immediately to the scene after hearing the “officer down” dispatch call.
Police have few details about what actually happened between Sollohub and Russell. They know that sometime around 11 a.m. Sollohub got out of his patrol car to talk to Russell. A brief foot chase followed and when Sollohub rounded the corner of a nearby house, Russell shot him, Smith said.
After hours of searching for Russell police arrested the Anniston man on an attempted murder charge and booked him in the Calhoun County Jail. Smith said the attempted murder warrant had already been signed by a magistrate hours before they found Russell so as to speed up the arrest process.
That charge was upgraded to capital murder around 3 p.m. Thursday when Sollohub was taken off life support at UAB Hospital in Birmingham and pronounced dead.
Russell had a 72-hour hearing Thursday morning at the Calhoun County Courthouse and was then transferred to the Etowah County Jail in Gadsden. Russell is being held without bond, officials said.
As a capital murder suspect Russell faces life without parole or the death penalty, if convicted.
Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said during a county commission meeting Thursday that Russell is being held at the Etowah jail to ensure he is treated fairly.
Smith said that kind of custody decision happens occasionally in capital cases that are high-profile in nature.
“No one is going to know him in Etowah,” Smith said.
Police officials said they developed Russell as their main suspect in the case within an hour of responding to where Sollohub had fallen. Investigators quickly went to work interviewing witnesses, compiling suspect profiles and hosting photograph lineups at the police station.
Russell quickly became police’s main suspect. And Russell is a familiar face to local law enforcement.
In addition to the capital murder charge, Russell is being held on four counts of unlawful distribution of controlled substances out of Oxford. Anniston police had a warrant for Russell’s arrest on a domestic violence charge. And Troy police, meanwhile, had a warrant for his arrest on a felony charge of assaulting an officer.
None of these were Russell’s first encounters with police. Court records show Russell has pleaded guilty to five felony crimes over the past two years, including three drug distribution convictions.
Russell was serving a five-year sentence on one of those drug convictions when he was released in October 2010 four years early. Russell’s early release from prison added to the frustration and grief that Anniston police feel over Sollohub’s death, Smith said.
“Absolutely, it’s frustrating,” Smith said. “As fast as we put them in, they’re back on the streets.”
Court dates have yet to be set in Russell’s case, officials said Thursday. In the meantime, police will turn their attention to building the case against him and commemorating their deceased friend.
Law enforcement officers from the following agencies were instrumental in Russell’s Wednesday capture: Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, Calhoun-Cleburne Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, the state ABC board, Alabama State Troopers, Talladega County Drug Task Force, the Weaver, Jacksonville, Piedmont, Gadsden, Oxford, Heflin, JSU, Ohatchee police departments, the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, the Etowah County Drug Task Force, the U.S. Marshals, the F.B.I. and the U.S. Secret Service.
Anniston officials said they couldn’t have successfully captured Russell without the help of these agencies. Forsythe said he is proud to have them escort Sollohub home today.
“We’re all going to be bringing him home,” Forsythe said. “We’ll meet at the Calhoun-Etowah County line … and bring him into Anniston.”
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.