Michelle Thompson and Harriet Alexander, Daily Mail, January 27, 2022
A former Miss Mississippi has told how her husband was shot dead in front of her and their two-year-old son in an unprovoked attack, while he was preaching in a rough part of Montgomery.
Christine Kozlowski Hand, 33, who is pregnant with their second child, told DailyMail.com that her husband, Thomas Hand, 37, had not interacted with his assailant before Saturday’s attack.
‘What you said is true. It was a complete random act of violence,’ she said.
Hand, a bodybuilder and born-again Christian, was pronounced dead at the scene in the Alabama city.
He had ventured to the rough Alabama neighborhood with his family to educate impoverished strangers about the powers of God, his friends and family said – just days after the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.
They said a mumbling man walked up and shot him.
A 17-year-old, Jerimiah Walker, from Montgomery has been arrested and charged with his murder.
‘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.
The Hand family moved to the city last year to escape growing violence in the New Orleans, Louisiana suburb where they previously lived, Rayan said.
‘It’s crazy because he was telling me every day, ‘I want to get away from this crap, go buy a house in Alabama,” Rayan said.
‘And then this happened.’
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.
Walker is being held at the Montgomery County Detention Facility.
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.
Daryl Bailey, Montgomery County District Attorney, said on Monday that the city was ‘under siege’ by criminals following a weekend of violence in Alabama’s capital.
Bailey told WFSA the latest shootings are ‘way too much’.
He said: ‘I spent my entire weekend dealing with the violent crime in Montgomery, going to crime scenes, or on the phone with law enforcement.
‘The city of Montgomery is under siege, and we have got to address these issues.’
There were at least 75 homicides in 2021, the outlet reported, 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.
Hand and Kozlowski, from D’Iberville, Mississippi, married in 2016.
She had won the state pageant in 2008.
She competed in Miss America the following year at age 19 and 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.
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.’