Prosecutors to seek death penalty for man accused of killing Nassau County deputy

Patrick McDowell indicted on charge of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer

Booking photo of Patrick McDowell (Nassau County Sheriff's Office)

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – The man accused of killing a Nassau County deputy during a traffic stop last month was indicted by a grand jury Friday on a charge of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, according to News 6 partner WJXT-TV.

Patrick McDowell, who was arrested on the fifth day of a manhunt in western Nassau County, was treated for gunshot wounds and dog bites at UF Health Jacksonville before being booked into jail. He is being held without bond in Duval County and will be arraigned on the new charges Oct. 21.

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In announcing the indictment Friday, the State Attorney Melissa Nelson said the state intends to seek the death penalty if McDowell is convicted.

Criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor John Rockwell told News 6 partner News4Jax it takes a unanimous jury decision to put someone to death and then the judge has to agree.

Even if the jury and judge are convinced that aggravating circumstances justify the death penalty, the defense can present mitigating circumstances. In McDowell’s case, it could be McDowell’s history as a war veteran. His father said he suffered with PTSD and used drugs.

“It really depends on how much weight the jury gives that mitigation and how much of that mitigation actually comes out,” Rockwell said. “This, to me, is a more egregious case, of course, involving the death of Deputy Moyers.”

Before pulling over for Deputy Joshua Moyers on Sandy Ford Road on Sept. 24, McDowell told a passenger in his van: “It’s either him or me.”

Moyers was shot twice with a handgun. The 29-year-old, who was engaged to be married, died of his injuries two days later.

According to Sheriff Bill Leeper, McDowell’s gunshot wounds were suffered early in the manhunt. At one point he was found by a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 and shot the dog -- which survived. Leeper said when McDowell fired on the K-9 with a rifle, deputies returned fire and later learned they had wounded McDowell.

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