Suspect tries to gain access at Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis
A gunman who fired shots outside a Jewish school in Memphis was critically wounded this afternoon in a confrontation with police. There were no other injuries. Students had not yet returned to the Margolin Hebrew Academy-Feinstone Yeshiva of the South, where classes resume on Aug. 17.
Congressman Steve Cohen updated an initial press release about the incident, stating “we have recently learned that the shooter at the Margolin Hebrew Academy was himself Jewish and a former student at the school. I am pleased the academy had effective security and that the police acted quickly to protect students.”
According to the Memphis Police Department, a call was received at 12:20 p.m. that a man with a handgun was outside the school, and had reportedly fired two to four shots with his weapon. There were no injuries.
The suspect fled before police arrived, driving a maroon Ram pickup truck with California plates.
Soon, there was a sighting in Bartlett, and officers located the suspect. They did a traffic stop around 1:40 p.m., during which the suspect exited the vehicle with his gun. An officer fired his duty weapon, critically injuring the suspect. Some outlets reported that the suspect died, but as of early on Aug. 1, he was still listed in critical condition.
Assistant Police Chief Don Crowe of the Memphis Police Department said the gunman had tried to enter the school, but upon being unable to gain access, he fired shots outside.
“That school had a great safety process and procedure in place, and avoided anyone being harmed or injured” Crowe said.
The school was able to provide police with a photo of the suspect, along with vehicle information.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting the investigation.
WREG-TV is reporting that members of the community have identified the shooter as Joel Bowman. His father, Anthony Bowman, was killed by Memphis police in 2003.
The station quoted Brittney Eshelman-Worch, who also attended the school. “Genuinely to the core, I don’t think he would ever intentionally hurt someone,” she said. “He has struggled with mental health for a number of years.”
During the incident, the school sent out a release stating they were in a “developing active shooter situation” and no one had been hurt. “Everyone is now safe, thank G-d.”
They added that the campus is closed, and “we thank you for your understanding. May we all continue to merit Hashem’s protection.”
All schools in the city and county systems went on lockdown until just after 2 p.m.
The Jewish Federations of North America said they are “relieved that Margolin Academy’s ‘great safety procedure and process’ helped keep it safe during this terrifying attempted shooting. We are grateful to law enforcement, Secure Communities Network and the Jewish Community Partnership of Memphis for their quick response.”
They added that it is also a “stark example” of the importance of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and of #LiveSecure, which ensures every Jewish community has a security initiative to train schools, synagogues and community centers on how to stay safe.
Toni Williams, Superintendent of Memphis-Shelby County Schools, said “The entire MSCS family wraps its arms around the Margolin Hebrew Academy family. Your alertness amidst the unimaginable was heroic. We stand united in combating gun violence and keeping our students and staff safe.”
According to court filings, on May 14, 2003, Susan Bowman called 911 to report that her husband, Anthony, was “acting erratically and appeared to be emotionally distraught,” had left home and that he was taking medication for bipolar disorder.
When Anthony Bowman, his wife and police returned to the home, Anthony Bowman threatened to kill himself and held a gun to his head, then ran outside with the gun pointed to his head, at which point the police shot him multiple times, killing him.
In a 2004 suit against the city, Susan Bowman stated that Anthony Bowman was not a threat to anyone else, and that she and their son, Joel, were “within the ‘zone of danger’ when Dr. Bowman was killed.”
A Facebook post on Joel Bowman’s page just before noon on July 31 read “Gots time on my hands, ‘Home’ Court Visit.”
Six days ago, he posted “Every night for the last 20 years I’ve gone to sleep & been confronted with “The Memory” of my Fathers death. It’s not a “Memory”, it’s a Damn 4K UHD “Fully immersive” experience.”
(This story will be updated as details are learned)
(Updated 8 p.m. to reflect uncertainty over the suspect’s condition. Updated 5 a.m. Aug. 1 with information about the shooter’s identity)