COLUMBIA — Five years have passed, but the memory of Officer Molly Bowden has not faded.
On Jan. 10, 2005, Bowden was shot during a traffic stop near the corner of Forum and Nifong boulevards. She died one month later. She was 26.
On Sunday night, the Columbia Police Officers Association held a memorial at the roadside where Bowden was shot. Afterward, friends and family gathered in the lobby of Forum Christian Church and recounted memories of Bowden.
Tamara Nelson, who is married to Capt. Brad Nelson, said the two were getting to know Bowden when she was shot.
“She’d laugh at everything,” Tamara Nelson said. “She was always in a good mood. She was always smiling.”
She said Bowden's laugh would echo and could be heard from a distance. The Nelsons recalled a time that their neighbors called police about the noise when they were on the back porch with Bowden and a few others.
“We blamed it on Molly,” Brad Nelson said. “She enjoyed life."
Officer Jill Wieneke was a reserve officer when Bowden was shot and knew her mainly by reputation. Wieneke, now director of community relations for the Columbia Police Officers Association, said that Sunday night was a sad anniversary but served as a reminder to be careful.
Wieneke said that it takes a special person to lay down their life for a stranger and that Molly Bowden was that type of person.
Columbia Police plan to keep Bowden's memory alive. Last week, there was a blood drive in her honor. Supporters have also sponsored a toy drive and established the Molly S. Thomas Bowden Memorial Scholarship for a woman studying criminal justice administration or forensic science at Columbia College.
The stretch of road along Nifong Boulevard where the memorial was held Sunday is now called Officer Molly Bowden Memorial Boulevard.
“This is never fading away, as long as we can help it,” Tamara Nelson told David Thomas, Bowden's father.