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UPDATE: Missing Lebanon officer’s body found

Staff Reports • Mar 1, 2018 at 4:32 PM

Lebanon police Officer Joseph Bowen’s body was found Thursday afternoon in Smith Fork Creek near Dowelltown, several hours after he went missing.

According to Lebanon police Sgt. P.J. Hardy, Bowen left Lebanon Police Department at 6 a.m., following an overnight shift. Hardy said Lebanon police Chief Mike Justice issued a be on the lookout alert after family members tried to call Bowen on his cellphone multiple times but couldn’t reach him.

Bowen’s truck was found Thursday just before 1 p.m. in Smith Fork Creek off Highway 70 near Dowelltown. Bowen wasn’t in the vehicle or anywhere to be found.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers, DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies and DeKalb County volunteer firefighters helped search the area around his truck and where Bowen’s body was eventually found.

Lebanon police command staff, along with other department personnel, searched the route Bowen normally took to Smithville, where he lived.

Wilson County sheriff’s deputies set up a mobile command unit at East Main Street and Cripps Road in Watertown on Thursday afternoon to assist DeKalb County deputies with communications in an effort to find Bowen. Verizon officials pinged his cellphone and discovered it was last used at 7:23 a.m. somewhere around Dowelltown.

Authorities said Bowen’s truck left Highway 70 and went off an embankment into Smith Fork Creek. Bowen’s body was swept downstream in the creek, which was swollen from recent rain. Bowen’s body was found at about 2:45 p.m. about 200 yards downstream from his truck. Due to the high water and swift currents, four different swift-water rescue team members recovered Bowen’s body.

Bowen’s body was taken to DeKalb County Hospital and later to the state medical examiner’s office in Nashville. Mt. Juliet police officers and firefighters lined Interstate 40 overpasses in Mt. Juliet to pay their respects as Bowen’s body was taken to Nashville.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers have the crash under investigation.

Bowen was 28 years old. He was a five-year veteran with Lebanon police and had 10 years of law enforcement experience. He was married and had two young children, a son and a daughter.

Justice extended his sympathy and deepest condolences to the Bowen family.

“Joe was a great public servant, but more importantly an amazing family man and father,” he said. “This tragedy can only be described as impactful, as it will touch the lives of many, just as Joe had touched so many lives with his kindness.”

Bowen was the grandson of retired Lebanon police officer Frank Bowen and the son of current Lebanon police officer Dewayne Bowen. Justice also thanked the Bowen family for not only his service, but also his father and grandfather’s service in law enforcement.

Hardy said nearly 100 men and women were on the ground and in the air to help with the search.

Justice thanked DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray and DeKalb County fire Chief Donny Green for search coordination efforts.

“Our deepest appreciation goes out to Tennessee Highway Patrol ground and air units, Wilson County sheriff’s deputies, Lebanon Fire Department swift-water rescue, Wilson County Emergency Management Agency swift-water rescue, Putnam County swift water rescue, DeKalb Rescue Squad, Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Fire Department, DeKalb Emergency Medical Services, Smithville Police Department and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency who assisted today,” Justice said.

Hardy said funeral arrangements for Bowen would be released as soon as they become available.

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