One year after the shooting death of a Patagonia man by police officers, family members have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lake Havasu City.
Patagonia businessman Brent C. Bowdon, 59, was killed in July 2018 during an encounter with Lake Havasu City Police officers, who responded to reports of a possible domestic disturbance. When officers encountered Bowdon on the night of his death, he approached officers with one hand behind his back.
According to investigators, Bowdon refused to show officers his hands or indicate that he was unarmed. Officers shot Bowdon multiple times before paramedics were called to assist him, and Bowdon was declared dead at the scene.
A complaint filed last month indicated that Bowdon’s wife Denise Bowdon told officers repeatedly that there were no guns in their home, and that her husband was unarmed.
She and other members of Bowdon’s family, through Scottsdale attorney Scott Zwillinger, are now suing Lake Havasu City and the officers involved for Bowdon’s alleged wrongful death. The suit names Lake Havasu City Police officers Earl Chalfant, Angus McCabe and Camaron Hollis – and their spouses – as defendants in the case.
Bowdon was clearly intoxicated, according to Zwillinger, who filed the complaint July 22. Bowdon approached officers on the night of his death with headlights from their vehicles pointed directly at him.
One officer told Bowdon they “only wanted to talk.” Zwillinger says the officers opened fire when Bowdon was about 15 feet away from them, while they stood behind the doors of their patrol cars.
The Kingman Police Department investigated the incident, taking witness statements and examining police body camera footage in the weeks that followed. That footage was released to the public last year.
Brent Bowdon was heavily intoxicated and despondent after an argument with his wife, investigators concluded. When Bowdon emerged from his home to meet officers, he did so with one hand behind his back. Bowdon approached officers, who repeatedly told him to show them his hands.
Body camera footage showed Bowdon’s wife pleading with officers not to shoot her husband. She told them he was unarmed, and that he was only pretending to have a weapon as he continued to approach officers.
Bowdon indicated to officers that he was holding a gun behind his back, and refused to stop his approach, investigators said.
Body camera footage from the incident showed Bowdon was warned several times that he would be fired upon if he continued to move toward officers at the scene. He was told to drop any weapon he may have been carrying, the footage showed. Bowdon gave no indication that he was unarmed.
Officers attempted to de-escalate the situation as Denise Bowdon begged her husband to stop. Brent Bowdon, however, continued his approach.
Lake Havasu City Police Officers Earl Chalfant, Angus McCabe and Cameron Hollis opened fire, shooting a collective 10 rounds and striking Bowdon several times. The officers requested assistance from Lake Havasu City paramedics immediately after the shooting, but Bowdon was pronounced dead at the scene.
At no point, Zwillinger wrote, did Brent Bowdon “make a verbal threat, a furtive movement or a harrowing gesture.”
Zwillinger’s complaint alleges that officers Chalfant, McCabe and Hollis violated Bowdon’s civil protections against excessive force. The officers breached their duties, Zwillinger wrote, and their actions resulted in what he alleged was Bowdon’s wrongful death.
Bowdon lived with his family in Patagonia, and enjoyed traveling to Havasu for recreation. He was a U.S. Navy veteran, the owner of several businesses throughout Santa Cruz County, and a former captain of the Patagonia Volunteer Fire Department. According to his obituary, he aided in fundraisers for Patagonia charitable organizations and was a former president of the Patagonia Regional Business Coalition.
A memorial service was held for Bowdon at Patagonia’s Union High School Football Field last September. In lieu of flowers, donations were made to the Brent C. Bowdon Memorial Scholarship Fund at the National Bank of Arizona, in Sonoita.
“Brent’s survivors have been deprived of the continued companionship and society of their husband, father and son,” Zwillinger’s complaint said. “They have suffered and will continue to suffer in the future a loss of love, affection, companionship, care, protection and guidance. They have suffered pain, grief, sorrow, anguish, stress, shock and mental suffering.”
The officers were subpoenaed to answer Zwillinger’s complaint, and a jury trial has been requested by plaintiffs Denise Bowdon, Lynne Sowles and Carl Bowdon. Zwillinger is seeking damages against the defendants in an amount to be determined by such a trial.
Defendants in the case are required to respond to the complaint within 20 days.
As a matter of city policy, Lake Havasu City Manager Jess Knudson declined to comment on the pending litigation.