Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm spoke to a troop of Girl Scouts a week ago. The girls wanted to know how the officers who had been shot were doing.
The chief sat down with the troop and explained how Officer Brown was recovering from his injuries. He then explained Officer Bowden’s condition. He was surprised when one of the girls asked him how the other officer was doing.
It took Boehm a minute to realize that the officer the girl was asking about was Officer Bowden, whom she knew as Officer Molly.
At Bowden’s funeral Tuesday, Boehm explained that this was the legacy of Officer Bowden. Her fight for life brought the community of Columbia together. To the people of Columbia and the officers of its police department, she was simply “Molly.”
— Meredith MacKenzie
In the weeks after Molly Bowden was shot, Devin Brown, a longtime friend of her husband, Corey, had taken to paging his old pal every night before he went to bed.
Last Monday was no exception.
“What are you doing?” Brown asked.
“I’m in Molly’s room. I just finished writing a poem,” Bowden replied.
“Really?” Brown asked. “Read it to me.”
“Oh no, no,” Bowden said.
Finally Bowden said, “If I read this to you, it will take our relationship to another level.”
“I don’t think it can go to another level,” Brown said.
Bowden read the poem.
Then Brown read it at Tuesday’s service. It is called “The Wait.”
“I sit and wait, feeling all kinds of hate. Wishing for the best, not knowing her fate. She has been strong, keeping up the fight. She is my hero and my guiding light.”
— Meredith MacKenzie
A grateful heart
Cindy Lee didn’t know Molly Bowden personally, but she has prayed for her ever since the night of the shooting.
“And I never laid eyes on her,” Lee said.
Even though she has lived in Columbia for only a year, Lee couldn’t help but feel connected to the community and the events surrounding Bowden’s death. She said she has had a hard time understanding why it happened. She hoped Tuesday’s ceremonies would shed some light on it.
“I looked at the pictures of her,” she said. “The reason I went is that I wanted to find out what kind of person she is. Looking at the pictures it makes it more real.”
Lee has a 25-year-old daughter, Alison, and every time she sees Bowden’s face on the news, she is reminded of her own daughter. And she knows about loss. Her brother died when he was 26.
“I know what it means to lose somebody that young,” she said.
As she stood on the sidewalk of Business Loop 70 and watched the procession drive by, she was glad she was able to participate.
“I guess I feel privileged,” she said. “I had the opportunity to say thank you and pray for her family.”
— Leah Lohse
A walk in the woods
Former Greenville, S.C., police officer Conrad “Connie” Howe could have been riding in Molly Bowden’s police car on Jan. 10. The 69-year-old is a member of the citizens on patrol program, which allows local residents to ride with Columbia police officers. Every time Howe thinks of Bowden, he can’t help but wonder whether he might have been able to save her life.
“We talked about me riding with her on patrol,” Howe said. “I’m glad I wasn’t riding with her that day, but I keep thinking that if I would have been there, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.”
Howe first met Bowden at the District 25 Neighborhood Watch meeting, which she attended on behalf of the police department. There were neighborhood concerns over drug trafficking in a wooded area behind McKee Street Park, and Bowden attended to suggest methods for drug prevention. As Howe and Bowden were walking through the woods behind the park, she pointed to underbrush that should be cleared to eliminate hiding places for drugs and where to install lighting in an abandoned area of the neighborhood.
“She was a sweet person, so easy to get to know, and very concerned and dedicated,” he said. “Molly’s the type that would take care of any situation or anyone.”
Howe and Bowden quickly became friends. He attended special programs at her church and met her family. He also visited her in the hospital, and he described her death as a personal loss. “I think she had an influence in more lives than we’ll ever know,” he said. “I think that’s why people think so much of her. She’s touched so many.”
— Leah Lohse
The tough girl
Among the crowd of uniformed city employees, police officers and somberly attired family friends was a 14-year-old wearing dangling earrings, pink sunglasses and a rhinestone nose stud.
Her name is Ashley Koopmeiners, and she said Molly Bowden arrested her.
The encounter changed the course of her life.
“She saved me from getting in a lot of trouble,” she said. “She tried working out the problems and tried to figure out the situation.”
Bowden picked her up on suspicion of stalking. Koopmeiners said she was just doing her paper route when a girl who didn’t like her called the cops.
The tough-girl persona faded when she talked about how Bowden wasn’t like other cops.
“She was a cool cop,” Koopmeiners said. “She wasn’t as rude and stuck-up.”
After that first encounter, she said, Bowden used to stop by her house occasionally and ask about her family. Then Koopmeiners’ voice seemed to catch, and she looked down, the pink sunglasses shielding her eyes. Her friend asked if she was crying. “No, the sun just got in my eyes,” she said, head still down.
Then she raised her chin. “She would always say I was too young to get in trouble,” she said. “Now I don’t do anything illegal, and I stay away from dumb people.”
— Leah Lohse
The other side
Columbia resident John Holley has worked in prisons for nearly 20 years. He saw Molly Bowden’s death as a tragedy on both sides.
“I support the police community. I see the hurt and pain that they suffer dealing with crime in the community,” he said. “But I also see the offender’s side. You look at their families, and they have mothers and brothers and sisters, and you see their pain and suffering.”
Like Bowden, Holley graduated from Columbia College with a degree in criminal justice. He had intended to become a police officer, but a visit to the Boonville jail changed his mind. He has done prison ministry ever since.
He said the funeral service made him think about life more than he has in a long time, and he wants the community to realize that everyone has a responsibility to prevent things like this from happening again.
“We as a people have let people fall through the crack,” Holley said, alluding to Richard T. Evans, who police say shot Bowden and Officer Curtis Brown. “We should deal with people like that before they get to a tragedy like this.”
— Leah Lohse