Sheriff: Chester Councilman Odell Williams killed in drive-by shooting

Chester City Councilman Odell Williams was shot to death Tuesday night in drive-by shooting that might have been gang-related, Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood said Wednesday.

No arrests have been made. Underwood said detectives have developed some suspects, whom he declined to identity. He also declined to say whether those suspects have been questioned.

The fatal shooting might have been related to a neighborhood gang that carries the Roundtree Circle name, Underwood said. Investigators believe Williams, 70, was only a victim in the shooting and are not investigating him as having any other involvement, the sheriff said.

The incident started less than a mile away in the county before it progressed to Roundtree Circle, Underwood said. Williams was in his own car about two blocks away from his house when he was shot. The drive-by shooting happened near the intersection of Parkway Drive and Roundtree Circle.

Investigators found several bullet holes in Williams' car and 15 to 20 shell casings at the scene. They believe the shots were fired from another vehicle.

A suspect vehicle - a tan Dodge pickup - has been impounded, police said. Williams' vehicle was also impounded.

A motive is unknown, Underwood said, and Williams was the only person killed or injured. Underwood said he was not aware of any recent police reports that Williams filed that would indicate he'd had troubles with anyone in Chester.

The sheriff vowed that he and his department would solve the homicide, adding that Williams was "one of the most upstanding citizens in Chester." Williams had worked as a police officer for the Chester Police Department for more than two decades.

Underwood called the ongoing investigation into Williams' death the "highest priority" for his office.

"This is not going to happen in Chester County," he said.

The State Law Enforcement Division also is investigating the shooting.

Williams was shot once in the head, Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker and police officials said. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Williams' killing is believed to be the first homicide of a sitting public official in Chester, City Councilman William Killian told The Herald. He called Williams' death "a sad, sad day in the history of the city of Chester."

Williams has been on the Chester City Council since 1997, and was currently representing Ward 4.

City Councilman King Thompson said he was with members of Williams' family, other City Council members and Chester officials at Chester Regional Medical Center when Williams died late Tuesday.

Although the crime scene is outside the city limits of Chester, Chester County sheriff's deputies notified the Chester Police Department immediately Tuesday night because Williams was a city councilman, Mayor Wanda Stringfellow said. Investigators from both the sheriff's office and the police department are involved, she said, but no other details are available.

Stringfellow went to the shooting scene and was among several public officials at the Chester hospital late Tuesday night, when she "tried to comfort the family."

"I am deeply saddened by this heinous act of violence," Stringfellow said. "I am confident that the police will find out what happened and there will be justice served for this family and the people of Chester."

Stringfellow said Williams "provided much wisdom and valuable leadership to the Chester community."

"His untimely death by way of such a heinous crime has certainly left each of us devastated," she said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time as each of us deal with this tragic loss."

Stringfellow also encouraged anyone with knowledge about the shooting to contact the sheriff's office or police department.

SLED spokesman Thom Berry confirmed that agents and crime scene technicians "are actively investigating the case" after being called in by the sheriff's office around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Chester officials were stunned by the killing.

"We still don't know what happened," City Councilwoman Annie Reid said.

Killian said he spoke with Williams' son and daughter after the shooting late Tuesday night.

"We all in Chester are hoping to find out what happened," he said. "Odell Williams helped people on the council. Even if people had their differences, he always had the interest of the people and the community at heart."

Chester City Administrator Sandi Worthy said she is "speechless" over the death of Williams, who served for the city for two decades as a police officer.

"He was a tireless servant of the community who had a wonderful demeanor," Worthy said.

Worthy added she has "full confidence" the investigators will "get to the bottom of what happened."

Roundtree Circle is a known haven for gang activity, police with Chester County Sheriff's Office and Chester Police Department have said previously. In July a member of the Roundtree Circle gang was charged with murder after a teen was shot in the middle of a Chester street.

Williams was arrested in March after allegedly threatening the Chester Police Chief at a council meeting. Williams denied the allegations at the time of the incident. The case had not gone to court, according to online court records.