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Montgomery DA says city is ‘under siege’ after spike in violent crime

Montgomery DA says the city is ‘under siege’ after a weekend of violence where the born-again Christian husband of a former Miss America contestant was gunned down in front of his family while they were out preaching in a ‘rough area’. 

The DA of Alabama‘s capital city, Daryl Bailey, said he spent his entire weekend dealing with a wave of violent crime

‘We’ve got to start sending messages that this behavior is not tolerated. I spent my entire weekend dealing with the violent crime in Montgomery, going to crime scenes, or on the phone with law enforcement,’ Bailey said.

Among those violent crimes was the senseless murder of Thomas Hand, 37, who was shot dead in front of his pregnant wife and two-year-old son in an unprovoked attack on Texas Street while preaching on Saturday.  

Jerimiah Walker, 17, from Montgomery was arrested and charged with his murder. He’s is being held at the Montgomery County Detention Facility. 

Hand, a bodybuilder and born-again Christian, had not interacted with his assailant before Saturday’s attack, his 33-year-old wife Christine Kozlowski Hand – a beauty pageant queen who once won the Miss Mississippi title and competed in Miss America – told DailyMail.com.  

‘It was a complete random act of violence,’ she said.

Hand is the city’s third homicide victim this year alone. Last year, the city recorded 75 homicides, with interim police Chief Ramona Harris calling it ‘one of the highest number’s we’ve seen in Montgomery.’ The city recorded 68 murders in 2020 and 42 killings in 2019.

In the past four weeks alone, there have been eight aggravated assaults in the area where Hand was murdered. Three days before he was killed, someone fired a gun a block from where he was shot dead. It’s not clear whether anyone was injured in that incident. 

Christine Kozlowski Hand is seen with her husband, Thomas, who was shot and killed Saturday while he was preaching in a ‘rough’ neighborhood on Texas Street in Montgomery 

Hand is pictured with his wife Kozlowski and their son, Roman, in this undated photo

Hand is pictured with his wife Kozlowski and their son, Roman, in this undated photo

Hand was shot dead in front of his wife and two-year-old son in this area of Texas Street, which friends have called a 'rough' neighborhood

Hand was shot dead in front of his wife and two-year-old son in this area of Texas Street, which friends have called a ‘rough’ neighborhood

Montgomery DA says the city is 'under siege' after a weekend of violence where the born-again Christian husband of a former Miss America contestant was gunned down in front of his family while they were out preaching in a 'rough area'

Montgomery DA says the city is ‘under siege’ after a weekend of violence where the born-again Christian husband of a former Miss America contestant was gunned down in front of his family while they were out preaching in a ‘rough area’

Baily told WSFA on Monday – two days after the murder – that he hopes the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling raising bail amounts for those charged with murder will help keep them behind bars. Previously, a murder suspect’s bail could be set at $150,000. Now it can go up to $1.5 million. 

‘I don’t think cash bail is in the interest of public safety. I want a ‘detain’ or ‘not detain’ system where judge determines if they are a danger – and if they are, keep them locked up,’ he added. 

Earlier this month, Tory Johnson was arrested after shooting dead a 21-year-old man and injuring six others at a bowling alley in the city. He initially posted $270,000 and was freed on bond by a judge. However, after public outcry – and with Baily’s intervention – he is now back behind bars after his bond was raised to $860,000.  

In the latest attack, Hand had ventured to the rough Alabama neighborhood on Saturday with his family to preach to his neighbors in the impoverished neighborhood about God, , his friends and family said – just days after the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.

A map shows the 3100 block of Texas Street where Hand was shot and killed on Saturday

 A map shows the 3100 block of Texas Street where Hand was shot and killed on Saturday

In the past four weeks alone, there have been eight aggravated assaults in the area where Hand was murdered, according to Montgomery crime stats. Three days before he was killed, someone fired a gun a block from where he was shot dead. Hand is the city's third homicide victim this year to date

In the past four weeks alone, there have been eight aggravated assaults in the area where Hand was murdered, according to Montgomery crime stats. Three days before he was killed, someone fired a gun a block from where he was shot dead. Hand is the city’s third homicide victim this year to date

The couple shares a two-year-old son Roman, whom Christine was pregnant with in this file photo. She's now pregnant with their second child

The couple shares a two-year-old son Roman, whom Christine was pregnant with in this file photo. She’s now pregnant with their second child

That’s when a mumbling Walker allegedly walked up and shot him in front of his wife and their two-year-old son in an unprovoked attack. 

Police did not immediately disclose the motive or details of the January 22 murder, which happened about 4:30 p.m. on the 3100 block of Texas Street. 

The Hand family moved to the city last year to escape growing violence in the New Orleans, Louisiana suburb where they previously lived, their friends told DailyMail.com.   

Hand, a fitness buff and ex-competitive bodybuilder, discovered God in 2018 and soon became deeply religious.

He and his wife, Miss Mississippi 2008, made it a Saturday tradition to visit low-income areas in Alabama and share religious teachings. 

‘He tried to spread the word of God, and he was shot,’ longtime friend Kevin Rayan told DailyMail.com.

When his father was hit, the little boy, Roman, tried to reassure him that everything would be ok.

‘He said, ‘Oh, you’ll be okay, Dad’ – that’s what he told him as he was dead on the pavement,’ Rayan told The Sun.  

‘And then this happened.’ 

Christine Kozlowski Hand was named Miss Mississippi in 2008

Christine Kozlowski Hand was named Miss Mississippi in 2008

Kozlowski competed in Miss America in 2009 at age 19 and won the swimsuit competition

Christine Kozlowski is pictured winning her Miss Mississippi sash in 2008

Kozlowski competed in Miss America in 2009 at age 19 and won the swimsuit competition. Right, she is seen winning her Miss Mississippi sash in 2008

Hand Jr. was a competitive bodybuilder and the 2010 Mr. New Orleans, according to his company's website

Hand Jr. was a competitive bodybuilder and the 2010 Mr. New Orleans, according to his company’s website

 Hand and Kozlowski, from D’Iberville, Mississippi, married in 2016.

She had won the state pageant in 2008 and competed in Miss America the following year at age 19 where she won the swimsuit competition.

The couple met at a gym, longtime friend Luke Lemus, 48, told DailyMail.com.

‘It was love at first sight,’ he said.

‘They just hit it off. They started their life together from that point on. They were inseparable from the day they met.’

Hand, who has a biological child and a stepchild from a previous marriage, discovered God in 2018, a few years after marrying Christine, Lemus said.

The couple moved to Alabama to escape growing violence in the New Orleans area, where they previously lived

The couple moved to Alabama to escape growing violence in the New Orleans area, where they previously lived

The Hand family are seen in an undated photo, with their son Roman

The Hand family are seen in an undated photo, with their son Roman 

He since became passionate about studying the Bible, enlightening others about Christianity, and hoped to one day become a preacher.

‘He started going to church, went and got saved,’ he said.

‘He studied the Bible day in and day-out.’

Added Lemus: ‘It’s a huge tragedy, not only to his wife, but we lost a very dear friend, as well. Heaven definitely gained an angel. It’s selfish to think we wish we could have it back.’


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