As she lifted a giant pair of blue scissors to cut the long red ribbon stretched in front of the Justin Sollohub Justice Center, a small smile appeared on her face.
She could only be thinking of her son.
“Two years ago we were planning a funeral. Two years later, there’s a building with his name on it. I’m excited. It’s the perfect time to do this,” she said.
Before the official opening ceremony of the Justin Sollohub Justice Center at 1:30 p.m., Morris said she’d always known her son was destined for law enforcement.
“I found a paper from the second grade that said he would be a police officer the day he grew up,” she said. “I don’t ever remember wondering what he would be.”
While on patrol in August 2011, Sollohub was shot in the head while pursuing a suspect on foot. He was airlifted to a Birmingham hospital and kept on life support until his organs could be donated. Joshua Eugene Russell, a 26-year-old Anniston resident, was captured after an hours-long manhunt by police that day. He is to be tried on a capital murder charge in September in Lee County in connection with Sollohub's death.
Sollohub was a good person and a “cop’s cop” according to Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart.
“If Justin was in the room everyone knew he was there. He didn’t only protect his fellow citizens, he protected his fellow officers,” he said.
“He meant so much to so many people,” she said.
As a crowd of more than 200 entered the new municipal courtroom to Josh Groban’s song, “You Raise Me Up,” a slideshow played on the far left wall with pictures of Sollohub during training and the complex before and during its development.
One well-wisher, Sherry French, worked with Sollohub at Classic on Noble before he became a police officer.
“Justin was the best kind of person you wanted to be around,” she said. “It didn’t matter if you were young or old. That was the kind of person he was.”
Anniston police Chief Shane Denham said he was both proud and honored to welcome those in attendance to the new complex.
“It’s an honor for me to say welcome to the Justin Sollohub Justice Center. I say that with pride because we will never forget. We will tell his story. This is a new chapter in Anniston’s history book,” he said.
Morris said Anniston has changed a lot since her son’s passing – changed for the better.
“The people who work in there were so special and important to him,” she said looking at the complex. “Now they have a place to be safe.”
Stephany Sollohub-Harbin, Sollohub’s sister, said the number of people who attended the ceremony was overwhelming.
“I knew he was leaving a great legacy but seeing all these people arrive to watch the building being named after him ... I can just see Justin’s grin from ear-to-ear. It’s something I can close my eyes and still see. I think he’s grinning today,” she said.
Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.