COLUMBIA — Family, friends and city officials braved blowing winds, falling flurries and dropping temperatures to honor Columbia Police officer Molly Bowden and the work of Columbia’s police officers on Thursday night.
At least 50 of Bowden’s relatives and friends gathered to celebrate her 3½ years of service at her memorial near the intersection at Forum and Nifong boulevards, where she was shot in the line of duty in 2005.
Bowden was wounded on Jan. 10, 2005, after she pulled over motorist Richard Evans in a south Columbia neighborhood. She was hospitalized for one month in critical condition and died Feb. 10, 2005. She was 26.
The memorial Thursday not only commemorated her life but also honored current law enforcement officers. During the ceremony, the stretch of road along Nifong Boulevard, now named Officer Molly Bowden Memorial Boulevard, was shut down and traffic was rerouted.
Cars lined the stretch of road along Nifong Boulevard. One car, with a license plate displaying “207-Mom,” stuck out. Bowden’s badge number was 207.
“It means so much to remember, of course, Molly and other police officers,” said Beverly Thomas, Bowden’s mother. “They have to sacrifice every day to care for our city.”
Pastor Michael Burt of Columbia’s Grace Bible Church, who knew Bowden since high school, led the memorial. “This has been a model of how these disasters can still have a positive effect on the community,” Burt said.
During the ceremony, Mayor Darwin Hindman thanked everyone for coming and recalled how the event changed the city.
“It is good to remember what it did in bringing the community together,” Hindman said.
Chief Randy Boehm spoke briefly, thanking Bowden’s parents for allowing the Police Department to continue to partake in the event, as they still consider Bowden’s parents a part of the department’s extended family.
David and Beverly Thomas thanked everyone for paying tribute to Bowden and for the continued love and support they have felt from the community over the past three years.
Around 9:50 p.m., a moment of silence marked the time Bowden was shot.
Boehm said the years since Bowden’s death have helped the department heal. But he said he is certain there isn’t a day that goes by that officers don’t think of her.
“It still seems like a recent thing,” Boehm said.