Officers in recovery

1 released; other opens eyes
Thursday, January 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:22 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Columbia police Officer Molly Bowden opened her eyes Wednesday evening after being shot three times in the neck and shoulder Monday night.

Columbia Police Capt. Sam Hargadine said Bowden’s condition was improving, but she was still in intensive care at University Hospital. She was in critical condition as of 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Officer Curtis Brown, 36, was released from the hospital Wednesday after being shot by Bowden’s attacker, Richard T. Evans, as he chased him through the Park De Ville neighborhood early Tuesday morning.

“This is a bit of good news for all of us,” Hargadine said.

Police Chief Randy Boehm said that during a routine traffic stop, Evans shot at Bowden from the driver’s seat of his Mitsubishi Galant, missing her. As Bowden attempted to take cover behind Evans’ car, Evans chased and shot Bowden, knocking her down. He then stood over her and fired two more shots.

Since the shootings, some Columbia police officers have been struggling to complete their regular shifts.

Soon after the shootings, the department contacted members of the employee-assistance program at Boone Hospital Center to offer counseling to officers, Hargadine said.

“The next day they had numerous counseling sessions at the hospital and in the office,” he said. “There has been a network of support available to officers.”

Many active, retired and off-duty officers were affected by the events. Bowden’s husband is a police officer with the department.

Suzie Sawyer, executive director of National Concerns of Police Survivors, based in Camdenton, said counseling is crucial because police officers need to deal with the mental and psychological trauma of violent injuries to themselves or other officers.

“If you leave an incident like this unaddressed, the emotion becomes repressed,” she said. “It is almost as if it blocks the brain from normal function. Any officer involved in these incidents could suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

There were more than 2,500 assaults on law enforcement officers in Missouri in 2003, according to a recent study by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. With almost one in five of the assaults involving a weapon, counseling has become increasingly important.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives offers peer counseling specifically for officers after violent traumas and assaults. Paul Marquardt, spokesman for the bureau in Kansas City, said the agency offers a support group called Peer Support that also offers counseling to officers. The group includes volunteer agents and other employees at the ATF who have been wounded or involved in shooting incidents.

“If there was a major incident where a number of people were shot and killed, we would offer this kind of support up,” he said

Sawyer said it’s not surprising that the emotional distress put on officers often families can often be debilitating.

“The defense mechanism of feeling safe melts away when you’re always hearing about the violence that goes on in the streets,” said Sawyer, whose husband is a 22-year veteran in law enforcement. “As families, we always have that fear, hoping that it is not one of ours.”

As for the local shootings, Columbia Police officials are still looking for Evans’ motive for shooting Bowden at the corner of Nifong and Forum boulevards Monday night.

Evans, 23, abandoned his car less than a mile from the shooting on Nifong, Hargadine said, and walked the six miles to his parents’ home, on the west side of Columbia, where police attempted to apprehend him. As Evans fled, he shot Brown in the bicep. He then shot himself in the head. Evans died Tuesday evening.

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, who performed Evans’ autopsy Wednesday, said it was still too early to determine whether Evans was using drugs or was even intoxicated during the two shootings. Blood samples were sent to the University of Missouri-St. Louis diagnostic laboratory.

“We know it is frustrating, but these can take from two to four weeks just to get results back,” Rao said.

She confirmed that Evans died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and added that there was no evidence that showed Evans had used drugs intravenously.

The autopsy did not help police in their investigation.

“We have no justification for what he did,” Hargadine said.

The case is still open, he said, to find a motive and possibly where exactly Evans was between 9:50 p.m. Monday, when he shot Bowden, and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, when police spotted Evans walking to his parents’ home on Orleans Court.

Although Evans’ death ended any actions from the prosecutor’s office, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane said he would still be involved in helping police find a motive.

“I will still be interested in this case because I am friends with the police,” Crane said.

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