Columbia responds

After the death of Officer Molly Bowden, the first Columbia police officer to die in the line of duty from an assault, Columbians mourn and remember the life of a woman whom many are calling a hero.
Sunday, February 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:13 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Prayers for Officer Bowden

Among the prayers said every Sunday at Calvary Episcopal Church, one is for people in civil authority.

The Rev. Fred Thayer said his church supports these officials because of the nature of their work. On Friday, after learning of the death of Officer Molly Bowden, Thayer sent a letter to police Chief Randy Boehm expressing his personal condolences.

“May you and all of her brothers and sisters in the Columbia Police Department live in peace and in hope, even in the face of those risks which attend the public service, which all of you render for the greater good of the community,” Thayer wrote in the letter.

Today the congregation, led by Thayer, will be saying a special prayer for Bowden as well as her family and fellow police officers.

— Heather R. Higgins

Gathering at Mizzou Arena

No one in the Mizzou Arena on Saturday afternoon knew what the outcome of the game would be. Fans packed the building dressed in black and gold, cheering and booing as the game was played.

On Tuesday, the atmosphere here will be entirely different and everyone walking into the arena will know the end of Molly Bowden’s story.

Missouri upset Oklahoma on Saturday. Fans rushed the court. In the parking lot, people rushed to their cars to be the first ones out. They cut each other off and sped past police officers directing traffic.

But Tuesday, as they remember Molly Bowden, it’s likely no one will be in a rush.

— Graham Johnston

Neighborhood raffle

The window shades are drawn on the Bowden residence in the Blue Acres Mobile Home Park. It is no longer a home, only a house.


Michelle Fanning-Jacobs says she hopes to raise $1,000 in a raffle to help Molly Bowden’s family. (JENNY BEAUSANG/Missourian)

Months ago, Columbia police Officer Molly Bowden played catch and chased the family’s puppy with her two stepchildren. The lawn was green and lush, carefully manicured by Corey Bowden. The disrepair of the neighboring mobile homes did not stop the Bowdens from turning a mass-produced structure into a loving home for their children.

“You could just see the way she interacted with them that she loved and cared for them deeply,” said Michelle Fanning-Jacobs, co-owner of the mobile home park.

The Bowden home has been a “ghost house” for the past month, but it wasn’t always that way, neighbor Cole Chambers said.

“Corey and Molly were so friendly, and the kids were great,” Chambers said. “You couldn’t have asked for better neighbors.”

To help their neighbors, Fanning-Jacobs started a raffle to raise money for the Officer Down Fund. The raffle has already brought in $500 and she expects to raise about $1,000 total. The winner of the raffle will receive free rent for the month of March.

Chambers, who injured his knee two weeks ago, said the Bowden tragedy put everything in perspective.

“I start to feel sorry for myself, and then I look at their empty home and remember,” said Chambers as he looked down at his bandaged leg. “It just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal compared to their tragedy.”

— Mark Szakonyi

Ribbons for support

Dave Hestir knew the Bowdens were good people from the moment he met them. Hestir, owner of Gold Nugget Popcorn, moved to Columbia from Alaska last year and was introduced to Corey and Molly Bowden by his brother, Officer Mike Hestir.

The Hestir brothers joined the Bowdens on several occasions for Buffalo wings and conversation.

“They were good family people, easy to be around, and very kind to me,” Hestir said. “I feel like I’ve known them for years, and it has just been a couple months. I can’t imagine how the people who knew Molly for years feel right now.”

After hearing that Bowden was hospitalized, Hestir made his way to University Hospital, wherehe was overtaken with grief.

“It was then that I kept asking what I could do,” Hestir said. “I knew I had to do something.”

A day later, Hestir, along with friends and businessmen Tony Beckett and Jay Curry, with the support of Officer Sterling Infield and Officer Rob Kiesling, created a plan. Soon blue ribbon magnets that read “Support a Hero” were designed and displayed along with banners.

The magnets are available at the Columbia Police Department for a $5 donation. Proceeds will go to the Officer Down Fund.

Hestir was at the Columbia Police Department on Friday to pay tribute to Bowden. He placed an etched glass block designed by Beckett at the memorial on the stairs of the building and helped hang a “Support a Hero” banner by the front door.

Hestir is one of many people at work for the Bowden barbecue and auction to be held Saturday at Kemper Arena in Columbia

— Kyle Ahrens

Rock Bridge High School

At 3 p.m. Friday, Rock Bridge High School students gathered in the commons as they do every school day.

For students and faculty here, the death of Officer Molly Bowden sparked heartfelt conversations at lunch tables and in halls. Some questioned the safety of Columbia.

Clark Leyshock, a sophomore, lives in a neighborhood near the intersection of Forum and Nifong boulevards where the shooting occurred. Knowing such an incident could happen close to his home made Leyshock and his friends second-guess security.

“On one level, you don’t know the person and it’s not your reality,” sophomore Tyler Jones said. “I try not to get too mad about it because that horrible stuff happens all the time, but you try not to live in fear. We try to find the balance between living in fear and being safe.”

— Liz Mitchell

Cross-country support

News of Officer Molly Bowden’s death rippled across the country, drawing nation-wide responses from the law enforcement community. Condolences, poems and prayers for Bowden and her family poured onto Web sites during the past two days.

“It doesn’t matter where we work when one of our brothers or sisters fall,” Sgt. Jeff Baylos of the La Habra Police Department in California wrote on the Officer Down Memorial Page Web site. “We all feel the pain.”

Children and spouses of fallen police officers also offered their prayers and promised their loved ones would watch over Bowden.

Friends who lost touch with Bowden over the years reflected on her life of service and cheerful personality.

“Molly, you were a true and dear friend,” Officer Tim Gruhike of the Fairmont City (Ill.) Police Department said. “Although our lives took us to separate places, you were always in my heart.”

Retired patrolman Michael Brown of New Jersey heard about the shooting in January. Injuries he sustained in a line-of-duty shooting forced him into early retirement.

“There is no such thing as a routine stop,” he said. “Just a casual stop can turn to life and death just that fast.”

— Katie Fretland

Scene of the shooting

Just before the traffic signal where Nifong Boulevard intersects Forum Boulevard, a single blue fabric rose tied with a blue ribbon stuck out from the frozen ground. The rose marked the spot where Columbia police Officer Molly Bowden was shot last month.

For weeks, the rose stood alone. Now, in the wake of Bowden’s death, it has blossomed into live bouquets, balloons saying “Miss You” and a votive candle.

The balloons wave and the flames of the candle flicker in the breeze caused by cars speeding by almost too fast to notice the memorial.

— Heather R. Higgins

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