The man who gunned down Columbus Police Officer Thomas "Spanky" Bowen in 1984 is up for parole again.
And the Fraternal Order of Police wants to make sure he doesn't go free.
Lonnie Gene Botts pleaded guilty to murder for shooting the 26-year-old officer twice in the forehead March 11, 1984, as Bowen approached Botts' getaway car after it wrecked during a chase.
Responding to an 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. He was not heard from again.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Ledger-Enquirer
Officer Richard Reyes found Bowen's body there when he arrived. Botts had abandoned his Pontiac Grand Prix and run away. He later surrendered to police.
Back at the restaurant, three workers told police a masked man with a gun had forced them to go back into the business after it had closed, threatening to shoot them if they came out. The man fled when an alarm sounded, they said.
Along with the murder charge, Botts in November 1984 pleaded guilty to three counts of false imprisonment and three of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder, and got a 10-year sentence on each of the other charges, to be served concurrently.
Friends, family and former coworkers mounted a petition drive the last time Botts was up for parole, in March 2005. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole got nearly 2,800 letters in opposition to freeing Botts.
Now he's up for parole again, and the local FOP again is fighting it.
The group will host a letter-signing starting at 10 a.m. Friday in the community room of the Columbus Public Safety Center, 510 10th St. The petition drive will continue until 5 p.m., depending on turnout, said FOP President Randy Robertson. The FOP will pay to have the letters mailed to the state parole board.