The local Fraternal Order of Police will until 5 p.m. today continue its petition drive to keep the man who killed Officer Thomas "Spanky" Bowen in prison.
The FOP began soliciting signatures opposing parole for Lonnie Gene Botts at 10 a.m. in the community room of the Columbus Public Safety Center, 510 10th St. Since then the flow of folks supporting the FOP and the Bowen family has been "steady traffic," said Police Sgt. Tim Wynn, who's married to Bowen's sister, Joanie.
Also attending the petition drive are Bowen's parents, Ernest and Betty. "The point that I want to make is that this guy should remain incarcerated for the rest of his life," the father said during an interview Tuesday.
The family every four years now faces the possibility the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole will free Botts.
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“It’s torture to have to go through this," said Betty Bowen. "I have heard a couple of people say, ‘Well, he served his time.’ If you ever have a son killed, or any child, you’d know how it is.”
Said Wynn: "I think the most frustrating thing for me – and I can’t imagine what it’s like for them – is you get a four-year constant reminder he’s coming up for parole.... It’s not fair for the family to keep having to go through this.”
Botts pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison for shooting 26-year-old Officer Bowen twice in the forehead March 11, 1984, as Bowen approached Botts’ getaway car after it wrecked during a chase.
Responding to a 4 a.m. alarm at a 3201 Macon Road restaurant then called the Bombay Bicycle Club, Bowen saw Botts’ car fleeing the scene and pursued it. The driver lost control at Edgewood Road and Auburn Avenue and wrecked in a yard. Bowen radioed that he was going to check on the driver, and was not heard from again.
A second officer found Bowen lying there, shot in the head. Botts had fled, but later surrendered to police.
Workers at the restaurant reported that a masked man attempted to rob the business, but fled when an alarm sounded. Along with the murder charge, Botts in November 1984 pleaded guilty to three counts of false imprisonment and three of aggravated assault for pointing his pistol at three restaurant employees and forcing them into a storage room.
The state parole board got nearly 2,800 letters in opposition to freeing Botts when last he was up for parole in March 2005.