Retired Alabama deputy killed in shooting recalled fondly

Residents of a west Alabama county are remembering a retired sheriff's deputy who was killed in the line of duty

CAMDEN, Ala. -- Madison “Skip” Nicholson retired from his job as a deputy with the Wilcox County Sheriff's Department a couple years ago, but he never really left. He was still around the office many days, partly because he was serving as a constable and serving legal documents in the rural west Alabama county.

Nicholson, 78, was fatally wounded and another deputy was shot in a confrontation that left a suspect dead Wednesday afternoon in tiny Yellow Bluff, a town about 90 miles (about 144 kilometers) southwest of Montgomery. Nicholson died in the line of duty, state police said.

A 40-year veteran of law enforcement, Nicholson was both well-known and popular around Wilcox County, and his death hit the community of roughly 10,000 hard.

“He was one of the purest, kindest, genuine people you will ever know,” area celebrity James “Big Daddy” Lawler wrote on his Facebook page, which promotes hunting, fishing and other outdoors activities in the region.

District Attorney Michael Jackson said Nicholson retired in 2019 but he recently saw him in uniform. "He retired but he didn’t really retire is a good way to put it,” Jackson said Thursday.

The shooting occurred while deputies answered a call about a domestic disturbance, officials said. A woman ran out of a home, and a man who was following her fired shots, Jackson said.

While Nicholson was shot in the neck and died after being taken to a hospital in Pensacola, Florida, by helicopter ambulance, the other officer was hit in the arm and should recover, Jackson said. The state attorney general's office identified the wounded officer as Trenton Gulley, the chief deputy in Wilcox County.

An investigation showed Gulley shot the suspect identified as Billy Bizzell, 52, Jackson said.

Pine Hill Police Chief NiKisha Gailes said she was at the scene and spoke to Nicholson before the helicopter lifted off. “So sorry Skip! I will never forget the way you squeezed my hand when you heard me saying you were gonna make it,” she said in a tribute posted on Facebook.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who is from Wilcox County, issued a statement honoring Nicholson. The shooting was another reminder of the sacrifice of law enforcement officers, she said.

“My prayers go out to his family and colleagues,” said Ivey.