The entire community is mourning this loss of Officer Justin Billa, especially those who knew him best.
Billa, 27, wasn't just a respected police officer withe Mobile Police Department. He was also a father, a husband, a son, and a friend. He leaves behind wife and 1-year-old son after he was shot and killed in the line of duty Tuesday night.
FOX10 News did speak with Billa's mother and brother, and understandably, they are too heartbroken to do an interview, but they helped paint the picture of the type of hero Billa was.
In 2016, Billa did an on-camera interview with FOX10 News about police-community relations.
"We need to go back to helping people, instead of just taking them into jail and creating bigger problems," said Bill in the interview. "That's my idea of good policing."
We're told his desire to help others was a characteristic admired by many. Billa became an officer in 2016. He was honored as "Officer of the Month" only six months later.
"He was noted for his ability to pay attention to things and be attentive to detail," said John Weichman, the president of the Optimist Club, which honors Mobile Police Officers. "For a six-month period of time to be recognized... that's unique. I can't think of any others who have only been on the force six months where that happened. He was very humble about getting the recognition, and his wife was very proud of him."
We're told Billa loved his family more than anything.
"She tells me she loves me every day before I leave for work, and I make sure to do the same," said Billa about his wife in the 2016 interview.
"He cared about people... and I think that's the most important part about being a police officer," said Officer Deron McMichael, Billa's coworker. "It's a shame that someone like that... the good Lord needed in heaven."
Billa's fellow officers describe him as softspoken, but also one of the most passionate people they've ever met. Several of his coworkers told us he would have tried to help the man who shot him, if he was just given the chance.
"If he wasn't killed and the guy was unarmed, I guarantee even with a gunshot wound, he would have drug him to the ambulance," said McMichael.
The entire city of Mobile has felt the effects of this tragic loss. Even though Billa's son will have to grow up without his father, we're told his family and friends will make sure he knows that his dad died a hero.
"There are five-or-six-hundred of us that are always going to be there for you," said McMichael. "I know if he could be here right now, he would say something like 'quit crying in your uniform, what's wrong with you?' He would smile at you until you smiled."
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