Charges filed against former student who fired shots outside Memphis yeshiva

Joel Bowman unsuccessfully trying to gain access to Margolin Hebrew Academy on July 31

On Aug. 2, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation filed several charges against Joel Alejandro Bowman, 33, who had tried to enter the Margolin Hebrew Academy-Feinstone Yeshiva of the South in Memphis on July 31, but after being refused entry, fired shots outside the building and was wounded in a confrontation with police an hour later.

Bowman, a former student and member of the local Jewish community, was charged with one count each of Carrying Weapons on School Property, Reckless Endangerment, Criminal Attempted Second-Degree Murder, Possessing a Firearm During the Commission or Attempt to Commit a Dangerous Felony, and Assault Against a First Responder.

Bowman was taken to Regional One Hospital in critical condition. There has been no update to his condition. According to court records, bond was set at $750,000 on Aug. 4 after a video arraignment, and a court date has been set for Aug. 10. Mitchell Wood is listed as lead attorney.

Classes for the year do not begin at Margolin until Aug. 17, but staff and contractors were at the school when Bowman arrived. According to a court affidavit, after Bowman could not get past the school’s security measures, he spoke with a contractor from A to Z Construction Services in the parking lot, then fired two shots at him, but did not hit him. He fired another shot while heading to his truck, and a fourth shot as he was leaving the parking lot before police arrived.

He drove a maroon Ram pickup truck with California plates, and the school was able to provide a photo of Bowman and information about the truck. Other schools in the area did lockdowns as police looked for the vehicle.

Soon, there was a sighting in Bartlett, and officers located the suspect. They did a traffic stop at 1:40 p.m., during which the suspect exited the vehicle with his gun reportedly pointed at one of the officers. That officer fired his duty weapon, critically injuring Bowman.

Local authorities praised the security procedures in place at the school, saying they prevented a larger tragedy and led to Bowman being apprehended quickly.

Michael Masters, national director of Secure Communities Network, which consults with Jewish communities across the country on security issues, said the outcome in Memphis “was not luck or an accident, but because of hard work between key partners,” including the Memphis Jewish Community Partnership, Memphis Police, Margolin and SCN.

Masters had stated that Bowman’s targeting of the school was personal in nature.

Members of the community who know Bowman said he has been dealing with mental illness for many years, and it has been an issue in his family, including an incident 20 years ago where Memphis Police killed his father.

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. He was 44.

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” and saw everything.

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.”

He also recently posted about how his grandfather had committed suicide, making his grandmother “bed-bound with sorrow” until she died of cancer, and how his grandfather’s actions “killed my father” and tried to get him as well.

Bowman had been living in Stanton, about 40 miles northeast of the school, and runs Dancyville Farms. He had posted on July 24 that he soon would be offering produce, fruit, fresh cut flowers and honey, and referenced a “before” drone video of the property he posted on YouTube five years ago.

On July 29 he posted a photo of his father’s grave and wrote about a “therapy breakthrough.” That same day, he also posted about a visit to a gun store near his farm, saying he had contacted the Sheriff’s office about a confrontation with someone in a Ram truck. He had already owned a gun prior to that visit.