Deputy Sheriff James Early McGowan

Deputy Sheriff James Early McGowan

Dale County Sheriff's Office, Alabama

End of Watch Tuesday, May 13, 1924

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James Early McGowan

Deputy Sheriff James McGowan was shot and killed while questioning a suspicious person during a traffic stop with another officer approximately six miles outside of Ozark.

The suspect, who was intoxicated and causing a disturbance, had approached an off-duty Ozark police officer at a polling place in Asbury after seeing the officer's badge. The suspect had asked the officer "are you here to arrest me?" and the officer replied "no." When the officer arrived back to Ozark he notified the sheriff of the individual, who then ordered Deputy McGowan to accompany the officer to arrest the suspect for public drunkenness.

Deputy McGowan and the officer spotted the suspect in his vehicle and pulled him over outside of Ozark. As Deputy McGowan notified the suspect he was under arrest the man shot him in the head with a gun he had concealed, killing him and striking the second officer in the crown of his police hat. The second officer returned fire, striking the suspect five times. The man managed to escape in his vehicle after running over Deputy McGowan. He drove near Skipperville where he was forced to abandon the vehicle due to his wounds. The suspect forced his way into a home where he passed out on a bed and was captured by a posse shortly thereafter.

The suspect, who was from Washington, Georgia, told officers during questioning his reason for being in the area was to deliver moonshine to Albany, Georgia. He was involved in a shootout with the sheriff of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office, who was chasing him. The story was later debunked during the investigation and the suspect was charged with first-degree murder. In September 1925, after several days of deliberating, the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict. The suspect made a $5,500 bond and left for his home in Georgia.

Deputy Sheriff McGowan had served with the Dale County Sheriff's Office for eight years. He was survived by his wife.


  • Age 44
  • Tour 8 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Mistrial

suspicious person, traffic stop, drunk driver

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"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

Chris Di Gerolamo
Federal Air Marshal Service

May 7, 2020

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