Sportsmanship award honors fallen Columbia Police officer

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BOONE COUNTY - A horse show brought people to the Boone County Fairgrounds Sunday afternoon, but the memory of a fallen Columbia Police officer unified them together.

Officer Molly Bowden pulled over a 23-year-old Columbia College student, Richard Evans, on January 10, 2005 for a routine traffic stop. During the stop, Evans shot Bowden three times and then ran away. Bowden was induced into a coma at University Hospital to fight off an infection, but she succumbed to her injuries February 10, 2005. She was 26 and a three year veteran of the department.

"Molly loved horses and she loved helping people, that's why she became a Columbia Police officer," Molly's father David Thomas said. Her love of horses and her longtime membership in both 4-H and FFA, sparked the decision to create the Sportsmanship Award.

Many of Bowden's friends and family attended the show Sunday. Molly participated in the annual horse show at the Boone County Fair as a young girl. Her parents award one rider with the Molly Thomas Bowden Sportsmanship Award each year. Riders submit an application explaining how he or she cares for their horse, how he or she would handle a situation with a fellow competitor and why the applicant feels he or she should receive the award. The committee then observes the applicants during the show and selects the recipient.

Mariah Murphy rode Queen of Persia at Sunday's 2014 Boone County Fair 4-H and FFA Horse Show. Murphy knows her as "Esther the Mule." She said she felt honored to recived the recognition.

"I just hope that I can live up somewhat to what Molly put into her life and her 4-H," Murphy said.

"We don't judge on fancy horses or fancy tack," Teresa Carlos, a friend of Bowden's, said of the decision making process. Carlos said she looks for riders who congratulate their competitors and are helpful throughout the day.

Columbia Police Officer John Martin also attended the show as a representative from the Columbia Police Department. Martin said he and Bowden worked together on the same squad.

"I knew Molly, my wife and her were best friends," he said. "When they asked me to do it, of course I said 'absolutely.'"

"She was just a presence," he said. "If a situation wasn't going very well, she could be a calming influence. It was part of what made her a very good officer. She was a go-getter.

Nearly 50 4-H and FFA members participated in the annual Horse Show Sunday afternoon. Sunday would have been Bowden's 36th birthday.