Crews search into night for man accused of shooting Florida deputy

Patrick McDowell sought in connection with shooting early Friday morning near US 301

Patrick McDowell is wanted in connection with the shooting of a Nassau County deputy.

CALLAHAN, Fla. – Law enforcement officers from around Northeast Florida are searching for a former Marine suspected of shooting a Nassau County deputy twice early Friday morning during a traffic stop in Callahan, News 6 partner WJXT-TV reported.

A spokeswoman for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office said Patrick McDowell, 35, is considered “armed and dangerous.” If you see him, you are asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately at 904-548-4000.

Nassau County investigators said the surveillance images pictured above were taken overnight Thursday, before Friday morning’s traffic stop and shooting, and show the clothes McDowell was believed to be wearing.

During an evening news conference, Sheriff Bill Leeper said the search would continue into the night. He said units were going through “several acres” and noted that it was a large search area. He said the darker it gets, the more challenging the search will become.

“We have helicopters, drones and that can detect heat in the dark,” Leeper said. “We’ll continue until we find him. He’s out there somewhere and we’re gonna locate him.”

Several Nassau County deputies were seen outside the hospital where Moyers was being treated Friday morning, sharing hugs of support.

“Officers will gather in situations like this to support each other, support the family, to offer prayers up for the injured officer as well,” said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson. “We have to rally around each other to support each other because it’s a very emotional time.”

Leeper said McDowell also shot a JSO K9 with a rifle during the manhunt. The K9 is expected to be OK. Investigators found the rifle near where the K9 was shot. Leeper posted a tweet with more photos of the suspected shooter, asking anyone who has seen him to call authorities as soon as possible.

A previous police report for McDowell indicated he is a veteran, and according to a LinkedIn page under his name, he served in the U.S. Marines from 2005-2009.

Leeper said Moyers pulled over a burgundy-colored minivan early Friday morning on US 301, and McDowell, who was driving, turned onto Sandy Ford Road before pulling over just in front of some train tracks. A woman was in the passenger seat of the van, Leeper said, when Moyers learned McDowell -- who gave him a false name -- didn’t have a driver’s license and that the tag on the van belonged to a different vehicle.

Leeper said investigators later learned the vehicle had been stolen from Jacksonville.

Leeper said the encounter, which was captured on dashcam video, turned violent when Moyers went to open the driver’s door and get McDowell out of the van -- just as a train began to pass on the tracks. He said the lights and flashers of the train crossing began going off, and that’s when McDowell’s arm came out of the vehicle holding a handgun and he shot the deputy in the face.

When the deputy fell to the ground, Leeper said, McDowell reached out and shot him in the back before slamming on the gas and speeding through the railroad crossing just as the arms were coming down.

Leeper said the backup deputy Moyers had called arrived about 30 seconds later and found him lying in the road.

Leeper said he visited the hospital where Moyers was taken and called his condition “very critical.”

“We’re not sure he’s going to make it or not,” Leeper said, fighting emotion.

He said Moyers, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2015, and his fiancé have been planning their wedding. “Keep them in your prayers,” Leeper said.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and state patrol personnel have been seen searching along U.S. 301 near Higginbotham Road and Sandy Ford Road. Leeper said at least 15 agencies have assisted them in the manhunt. People in the area were asked to stay indoors.

About the Authors:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor