Emmit King, former Alabama track star and Olympian, was killed in a shootout on Monday in Bessemer, Al., according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. He was 62 years old, and a former member of the U.S. Olympic relay team in 1984 and 1988.
The alleged shootout was with Willie Albert Wells, 60, who also died after the gunfire exchange in Alabama. Authorities have since began investigating the scene to find out what happened, but are not aware of any motive that would have led to the fight.
Willie Albert Wells and Emmit King reportedly knew each other before the shootout, both pulling their guns out during an argument on Sunday afternoon. The gunfire started at around 3:40 p.m., AL.com reported, in front of the house on the 800 block of 22nd Street North in Bessemer, Al. The two men were reportedly arguing for some time before they pulled out their guns.
According to ABC News, Wells was pronounced dead at the scene at around 3:49 p.m. Emmit King died later at UAB West, a local hospital, pronounced dead at 4:40 p.m.
Emmit King ran for Jefferson State Community College and for the University of Alabama during his college years, where he became the 1983 NCAA national champion in the 100 meters dash. Later that year, he took home the gmold medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay run at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki, Finland. He also won the bronze medal in the 100-meter.
“Very sad news this morning,” wrote former Alabama coach Wayne Williams on Twitter. “Former Alabama great sprinter and NCAA 100-meter National Champion, Emmit King was shot and killed yesterday in Bessemer, Al. RIP Emmit.”
“I coached at Alabama when Bo [Jackson] and Hershel [Walker] ran in the SEC Indoor 60-meter dash,” coach Wayne Williams wrote. “On that particular night Bo and Hershel finished 5th and 6th. Emmit King was 1st and Calvin Smith was 2nd. The media ignored my guys and went to interview Bo and Hershel.”
A hometown hero, King was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Alabama University and previously attended Hueytown High School.
“This is terrible,” wrote journalist Jane Burns after hearing the news. “Emmit King was a great runner, part of the amazing Alabama teams that came to the @DrakeRelays in the 1980s.” Running at Drake University, athletes Emmit King and Calvin Smith placed in the top two spots.
According to AL.com, the two deaths are the 26th and 27th homicides in the town of Bessemer this year, almost double the 18 deaths from 2020. Jefferson County in Alabama has had 185 homicides in total for the year, surpassing last year’s 183 deaths.
“The one area where we have shown an increase is our murders,” said Birmingham, Al. Police Chief Patrick Smith. “Crime doesn’t simply fall at the doorstep of the police department only. This is a violation of our communities and we need the community involvement significantly to show some reduction in this area.”
“My goal as chief of police has always been to reduce crime in this city, promote cohesiveness within the community and the department and place the right people in the right seats in the department so that we’re addressing crime in a timely manner when it occurs and that we’re doing everything we can to address community needs and also reduce crime as a whole,” he continued. “But I can’t do this alone… We need your voice. We need your action, and we need your vigilance in your own community. This is how you can help us.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has yet to comment on Emmit King’s death or the rise in homicides in Bessemer.