Police officer Molly Bowden called her parents, David and Beverly Thomas, and invited them to join her Monday evening during her dinner break.
They met at G & D Pizza-Steak at Crossroads West Shopping Center, one of Bowden’s favorite restaurants and a frequent stop for fellow officers.
Beverly Thomas said her daughter loves to eat out.
“Molly’s one that always liked to be with somebody,’’ she said. “She didn’t really like to go eat by herself. We’ve met her several times, with even her fellow police officers.”
After dinner, Bowden hugged and kissed her parents. “She said, ‘I love you,’” her mother said.
It was close to 9:30 p.m. when Beverly and David Thomas left the restaurant for their Rocheport home and Bowden returned to her assigned beat for the Columbia Police Department.
About 30 minutes later, Bowden was shot while making a traffic stop on Nifong Boulevard near Forum Boulevard.
On Saturday, Bowden, 26, remained in critical condition at University Hospital from three gunshot wounds to the neck and shoulder.
The Thomases learned of the shooting about 10:15 p.m. from Bowden’s husband, Corey, also a city police officer. David Thomas said his son-in-law made the call on his way to the hospital and was unaware of the extent of his wife’s injuries. Thomas remembers thinking that maybe there had been a car accident or possibly a twisted ankle. A shooting, he said, was the furthest thing from his mind.
Bowden’s pastor, Michael Burt, said he received a call from the police department about the same time. “Within an hour of me being there, there were 75 to 80 people (gathered at University Hospital).”
David Thomas estimated that two-thirds of the department went to the hospital that night.
Since the shooting, the community, friends and fellow police officers have surrounded the family with support.
“The outpouring of public support is just awesome,” David Thomas said.
On Friday, Bowden’s parents talked about their daughter in an interview at Grace Bible Church on Paris Road where David Thomas serves as a deacon.
They said their only daughter always wanted to be where the action was. When she was in her teens, she wanted to be a fighter pilot. After she talked with a neighbor about police work, David Thomas said, “she just kind of fell in love with it.”
“She just loved being a police officer,” Beverly Thomas said. “Molly loves to be busy and in a lot of action where it is exciting.”
Bowden attended Columbia College and majored in criminal justice. She was also involved with the Air Force ROTC, went to the Law Enforcement Training Institute at MU and worked at the MU Police Department from 2001 to 2002 before joining the city force.
While working for the MU Police Department, Bowden met her husband, who was working for the Columbia Police Department.
“He was her backup,” David Thomas said.
The Bowdens married in 2003.
She is the stepmother to two sons from Corey’s previous marriage: Brandon, 6, and Cody, 9. Since the shooting, Bowden’s parents said the family prays a lot and talks to her at the hospital.
“Even though she doesn’t respond, chances are she is hearing what we say,” David Thomas said.
Columbia police Capt. Sam Hargadine said doctors are concerned about the extent of injuries to Bowden’s spine. On Wednesday, Hargadine said, Bowden had opened her eyes and was conscious, although she has not been able to speak.
Hargadine said investigators continue looking at all possibilities, including whether the suspect in the shooting, Richard Evans, had any help after Bowden was shot.
Police have no indication, however, that Evans had an accomplice.
Evans shot himself to death about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday after Columbia police officer Curtis Brown, 36, confronted him near Evans’ parents’ house on Orleans Court. It was about six miles from where Evans had abandoned his car on the south side of Columbia.
Before he turned his gun on himself, Evans, 23, shot Brown once in the biceps. Brown, a four-year member of the Columbia Police Department who had worked 10 years for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, was released from the hospital Wednesday.
Bowden’s family is hoping and praying for her recovery.
“We have seen miracles,” Beverly Thomas said, “and I believe we will see more if God wants them to happen.”
Mike Ekey of the Missourian contributed to this report.