Cape police join officers for funeral of true blue friend

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Darren Estes and Hank Voelker didn't know Molly Bowden, but they served with her husband.

For police officers, that's enough.

The two Cape Girardeau police officers traveled to Columbia on Tuesday to attend the funeral of their fallen comrade.

Bowden, 26, a three-year member of the Columbia Police Department, died last Thursday, days after doctors put her into a drug-induced coma to fight infection arising from her Jan. 10 shooting during a traffic stop by a gunman who later killed himself.

Estes and Voelker used to work for the Columbia Police Department. Both men knew and worked with Bowden's husband, Corey, who is also a police officer in Columbia.

"Of course it affects you," said Estes, a 34-year-old detective who handles child and sexual abuse. "And when you know the person or have connections, it hits closer to home. It sounds like a big cliche, and it is in some ways, but we're all like a big family."

The men wore their dress uniforms and drove a Cape Girardeau police car in the funeral motorcade.

It serves as a reminder to police, their families and the community at large how dangerous their job is.

"I think it's something people forget or aren't even aware of," Estes said. "We don't have it happen too much in Cape Girardeau, but it happens in big cities and small towns everywhere."

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page Web site, 14 line-of-duty deaths have occurred in the United States so far this year.

Five city officers have been killed in the line of duty in Cape Girardeau. No officer has died since the 1961 shooting deaths of patrolman Donald H. Crittendon and auxiliary Sgt. Herbert L. Goss. Crittendon, 25, and Goss, 67, were shot with a 9 mm handgun following a car stop. Goss died within a few minutes of the shooting and Crittendon died 11 days later.

Capt. Sam Hargadine, executive assistant to the chief in Columbia, said he was glad that Estes and Voelker were attending.

"Those two are still a member of our family," he said. "We hated to see them move down there. It's a tough day. But we've had a tremendous outpouring from the community. To see old friends come in like Hank and Darren, it will mean just that much more."

Sparkling badges

The service was held at Mizzou Arena at the University of Missouri-Columbia to accommodate an audience estimated at more than 2,000, including hundreds of visiting law enforcement officers whose badges sparkled under the bright arena lights.

The audience stood when Bowden's family entered the arena, then rose again for her extended family -- more than 100 Columbia officers who slowly filed past her open, flag-draped casket, many hugging her husband.

Voelker, 32, worked in Columbia from 1999 until 2001. He went to college with Bowden's husband. He remembers once meeting Molly Bowden, but Voelker knew her husband better.

Voelker and Corey Bowden became friends. That's how most police are, Voelker said.

"It's not like you're sitting at a desk and pushing papers," he said. "You go out and you get into situations that can be dangerous. That bonds you to that guy."

Estes worked in Columbia from 1995 to 2000 before taking a job in Cape Girardeau. He was a field training officer in Columbia and worked the same beat with Corey Bowden.

"We backed each other up and would go on a lot of calls together," he said.

Molly Bowden's death also has him thinking more about the dangers of the job.

"It should be on your mind any time you're on duty," he said. "In a perfect world it would be. It reinforces what we were taught in the academy. It could have been me. We just need to learn from this."

Neither man is allowing it to cause him to reconsider his job.

"Maybe I would have when I was younger," Estes said. "I've been doing this so long, I wouldn't want to do anything else. When it's my time to go, it's my time to go."

335-6611, extension 137

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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