After Columbia Police Officer Molly Bowden was shot in January, her family called upon the Rev. Michael Burt for counsel and to help them maintain their privacy during their daughter’s very public struggle for survival.
Her parents, David and Beverly Thomas, asked a member of their church to record updates of their daughter’s condition on the answering machine at their Rocheport home.
The Thomases and Bowden’s husband, Corey, began the most private and painful of all human struggles Thursday when Bowden, 26, died at University Hospital of cranial meningitis, a complication from the wounds she suffered in the Jan. 10 shooting.
As the news of Bowden’s death rippled through Columbia on Thursday afternoon, Burt said Bowden’s family was “holding up very well. …They’re just trying to deal with their loss.”
Burt is the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Columbia, where the Thomases are active in the congregation. A class at the church was cancelled Thursday evening in the wake of Bowden’s death. Burt said he would meet today with Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm and later with members of the family. Plans for funeral services will be released later today, Burt said.
Jeff Gould, a member of the church, said Bowden loved her job and the people she worked with.
“While she lived, she lived hard,” Gould said. “She was a very caring and courageous young woman.”
The morning after Bowden was shot, the church began a prayer chain to inform the congregation of Bowden’s condition.
Besides her church’s congregation, Bowden received support throughout the community.
Law enforcement, Bowden’s family and friends, and others came together to support Bowden through several charity events and a blood drive. David Thomas was the first in line to give blood for his daughter. Officer Curtis Brown, who was also shot in January, gave blood at the Jan. 17 blood drive that collected 350 units of blood.
Officer Todd Smith organized a benefit comedy show on Feb. 3. The proceeds from the event went to the Officer Down Fund, a trust fund designed to benefit officers who have been injured in the line of duty. Smith said the upcoming charity events, which include a barbeque and a silent auction, are still in the works as far as he knows.
The barbeque and silent auction are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 19 from 6 to 11 p.m. Tickets and information are available from Officer Rob Kiesling at 441-3891. All the proceeds will go to the Officer Down Fund.
Bowden was born on July 20, 1978, in Paris, Mo., to David and Beverly Thomas. The Thomas family moved to a 185-acre farm in Rocheport in 1988. Later, they sold 23 acres to Corey and Molly Bowden. The Bowden’s were planning on building a home there.
Bowden shared her age with one of her horses, Sandy. Bowden had been riding since she was about 5 years old.
Bowden has been religiously active since her childhood. When Bowden was 8, she came home from Vacation Bible School and told her parents she had accepted Jesus. Two months later, Bowden’s parents also accepted the Christian faith. David Thomas is now a deacon at their church.
Bowden graduated in 1996 from Hickman High School in Columbia. She attended Columbia College, where she majored in criminal justice. She was in the Air Force ROTC until she decided to go into law enforcement. Bowden also studied at the Law Enforcement Training Institute before becoming a police officer with the MU Police Department in 2001.
Columbia resident Christopher Ash worked with Bowden at MU Police Department until 2002. Ash is currently overseas with Operation Enduring Freedom. Ash said law enforcement was perfect for Bowden’s personality.
“I often found myself going on as many calls as I could just to see her interact with people,” Ash said in an e-mail. “She was truly amazing. No matter what was happening you could always count on Molly to pick you up and make you feel better.”
Molly and Corey Bowden first met on the job, when she was an MU police officer, and he was her backup from the Columbia Police Department. The couple married in Jamaica on July 29, 2003. Bowden wanted a beach wedding, David and Beverly Thomas said in January. She brought her faith to her husband and stepsons. Corey and Molly Bowden took Brandon and Cody to Sunday school regularly.
Bowden is survived by her parents, David and Beverly Thomas; her husband, Corey Bowden; her brother, Matt Thomas; and her stepsons, Cody and Brandon Bowden.
City Manager Ray Beck offered his condolences Thursday.
“I’m obviously very saddened to lose any city employee, in particular Officer Bowden, who was in the line of duty when this occurred,” he said. “We’re very appreciative of community support during this difficult time for the Bowden and Thomas family. Officer Bowden was an outstanding police officer, and we appreciate her excellent service to our city.”
Officer Gene Williams worked the desk at the Columbia Police Department on Thursday and fielded several calls from well-wishers offering their condolences for the loss of Officer Bowden. Williams said there was no way to put an exact number on the phone calls coming from those wishing the department well, but the phone was ringing at a steady pace for most of the evening.
Thursday evening, a man placed a white rose and lit a white candle at the top of the steps to the Columbia Police Department. Minutes later, Fred Parry and his two sons, Max and Nick, placed a bouquet of flowers with a yellow sign that read “God Bless Molly.”
Parry said he felt he needed to do something because the “community needs an opportunity to express” itself.
He said the “Police Department needs to know that the community is behind them and supports them.”
Ash added his own goodbye to his friend since he cannot be present at Bowden’s services.
“Columbia lost a great police officer, and I lost a great friend,” Ash said. “I will forever miss you, Molly.”
Missourian reporters Mike Ekey, Nigel Duara, David Serber and Meredith MacKenzie contributed to this report.