DEKALB COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) - The body of a Lebanon officer and his truck were found in a DeKalb County creek Thursday.
Authorities told News 2 the officer, identified as 28-year-old Joseph Bowen, was headed home after his shift ended around 6 a.m. when his truck left Highway 70, and went off an embankment and into the creek.
Lebanon’s mayor said Bowen called his wife when he got off work to let her know he was on his way home and authorities began searching for him after his wife called 911 when he didn’t return home.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, an aerial search was initially conducted for Bowen. First, crews found his truck, which was dented and mangled from the crash. His body was later discovered about 300 yards away from his vehicle.
“A rescue unit walking along the river bank was able to catch just a portion of what looked to be his duty belt rising above the water,” said Lebanon Police Sergeant PJ Hardy. “Everything else was submerged. They
thought that might be part of his duty belt and they were correct.”
Sgt. Hardy says over 100 personnel from different agencies searched for Bowen, including off-duty Lebanon Police officers. He said the conditions were treacherous and made it difficult to find their fallen officer.
“It’s been raining for the last two or three days so everything was muddy,” he said. “The terrain itself was treacherous.”
Hardy says the rapid and elevated water also made it dangerous for rescue crews to recover the officer’s body.
Bowen leaves behind a wife and two children. The THP asks the community to keep the officer’s family in their thoughts and prayers.
The Lebanon Police Department says they are mourning the death of a family member in blue.
“Joe was a great guy,” said Sgt. Hardy. “He was one of those that sat there for a little while and didn’t say a whole lot and all of a sudden he’d just put one out there and just puts a big smile on everybody’s face. He was super nice, liked by everyone.”
Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said Bowen was part of three generations of police officers with the Lebanon Police Department.
“His father is still with the police force and his grandfather is a retired police officer with 30 years of service,” Mayor Ash said. “It’s a very sad day for the City of Lebanon and Wilson County. Three generations with service to the city.”
His body was escorted by several police vehicles back to Nashville to the medical examiner’s office late Thursday.
Late Thursday, agencies across Middle Tennessee were offering their condolences to the Bowen family and the Lebanon Police Department, including the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office where Bowen got his start.
“Joe Bowen and his family have been true servants to this county. Joe’s wife, Kim, is a 911 dispatcher for DeKalb County. His father, Dwayne, was a former deputy in DeKalb County before leaving to go to the Lebanon Police Department,” DeKalb Sheriff Patrick Ray said in a statement. “Joe has served as a volunteer fireman for DeKalb County. He started his career in law enforcement working for my department as a correctional officer. I then promoted him to a deputy position where he worked in that capacity until he left my department to go to the Lebanon Police Department. Joe was much more than an employee to me. He was a true friend. His personal life and work ethics were a true example of what every officer should be like. My department, along with other emergency agencies in the county, morn his loss and will provide his family for whatever support they need.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Lebanon Police Department. We pray for strength and comfort during this difficult time for you and the Bowen family,” the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office tweeted.
The Spring Hill Police Department tweeted, “Rest in peace, Officer Joe Bowen of the Lebanon Police Department. Thank you for your service to your community.”