Aerospace engineer killed in Huntsville shooting ‘had tons of potential’

Emma Daniel, The Decatur Daily, Ala (TNS)Tribune Media Services

Andrew Gilliam, 27, member of Decatur Baptist Church

Jan. 6—A former Decatur resident and active member of a Decatur church died after someone shot through the window of his Huntsville apartment early Wednesday morning, according to Huntsville police, and his friends remember him for his faith and intelligence.

Andrew Gilliam, 27, was a 2013 Austin High graduate and a member of Decatur Baptist Church.

Huntsville police said officers responded to the shooting call at about 3 a.m. Wednesday at the 400 block of Lakefront Drive in Huntsville.

Gilliam, who lived with his wife at the apartment where he was shot, was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries. Two other apartments were shot into with no other reported injuries, police said.

In a public Facebook post, Gilliam’s wife said the bullet went through the couple’s bedroom window.

Larry Waye, pastor of spiritual growth at Decatur Baptist Church, said he knew Gilliam for 17 years and admired his wisdom and faith.

“He was an incredible young man,” Waye said. “He had tons of potential that he was fulfilling.”

He said he admired Gilliam’s strong dedication to the church.

“He definitely lived a great example of a true Bible believer, somebody that knew Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and savior. It wasn’t just a religion. He had a personal relationship with the Lord,” he said.

Waye said Gilliam and his wife, Robin, were active participants in church activities.

They started a church group for “nearlyweds and newlyweds,” couples who were recently engaged or recently married, to provide spiritual guidance to people entering a new period in their lives.

While Waye said Gilliam’s family, coworkers and congregation are hurting, he said their faith would carry them through.

“We most definitely will recover. Death is not the end for us,” he said. “We know where Andrew is, and we know we will see him again and be reunited. That’s what the Bible teaches.”

The senior pastor at Decatur Baptist Church, Joe McKaig, agreed that those who knew Gilliam are following in his footsteps of faith for comfort. He knew Gilliam for Gilliam’s entire life.

“He had a strong faith in Christ. He wasn’t the ‘Sunday morning Christian.’ He lived it every day, and he had selfless love,” McKaig said. “We know that he is in heaven, and that’s not some kind of trite saying.

“We really know that, and his family has taken solace and comfort in that.”

McKaig said Gilliam’s intelligence and wisdom constantly impressed him.

“He didn’t speak a lot, but when he spoke, what he said was always with a lot of wisdom beyond his years,” he said. “Once at the end of small group Andrew had something to share, and everyone was kind of shocked because he’s so quiet but also blown away with his wisdom.”

McKaig said Gilliam, an aerospace engineer, expressed great interest in space travel.

“I just think about most recently having a conversation with him about Artemis 1,” he said, referring to NASA’s recent lunar mission aimed at returning astronauts to the moon. “He loved what he did, he loved space exploration. He lit up when he talked about those things.”

He said Gilliam monitored the consoles for the Artemis launch.

McKaig said NASA had been considering making Gilliam a full-time employee instead of a contractor.

“It’s a great loss to our family, and to our country,” McKaig said. “One of the youngest, brightest minds was taken from this senseless act of violence.”

Clay Sloan is the current band director at Austin High School, and he was the assistant band director when Gilliam was in school. Gilliam was in the band from 2009-13, he said.

Gilliam played the trumpet in Austin High’s band before he played for the Million Dollar Band at the University of Alabama.

“I’ve taught a lot of band students, and they’re all like your children,” Sloan said. “We’re going to do what we can as a band family to help out the Gilliams.”

He said he remembered Gilliam for his gentleness and intelligence.

“He was one of the kindest young men I’ve ever met,” Sloan said. “He was very conscientious, very quiet, a very hard worker.”

Robin Gilliam, Andrew’s wife, said in a public Facebook post Thursday that she knows her husband is in heaven.

“He was taken to the hospital and went into surgery but the injury was too severe to save him. I know my sweet Andrew is with Jesus. He did his best to love me like Jesus. Although I am heartbroken and in shock, I want nothing more than for good to come from this and I know God will get all the honor and glory. …

“We went to bed having absolutely no idea what was to come. You do not know when your last breath will be.”

Huntsville police have not identified any suspects and said they are investigating the death as a murder. Those with information should contact police at 256-722-7100.