On Saturday, June 18, 192 1, Alachua County Deputy Sheriff Robert E Arnow,
33, was fatally shot in Micanopy when he attempted to arrest Jim B Bowyer
(or Boyer) on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon. Having known Bowyer
for some time (he had even worked for Arnow at one time) Arnow thought
he could talk him into surrendering peacefully. When Arnow asked Bowyer
if he had a weapon, Bowyer replied "Yes, I will give it to you" then proceeded
to fire five shots at Arnow with a 32 caliber pistol which had been hidden
under his coat. Deputy Arnow was hit four times, with one shot in the neck
breaking his spinal column. Arnow fell against Police Chief Gladney, who
was able to return fire at the fleeing Bowyer only after he "lay down"
the mortally wounded Arnow.
Bowyer ran from the scene of the shooting and the posse of thirty men that quickly formed was unable to find him. even though the posse was "greatly augmented" during the day. On June 21, the posse burned the woods around the home of one of Bowyer's friends; a man whom police believed often harbored "the bad Negroes of the Micanopy section". That same day, a reward of $50 was offered by Alachua County Sheriff P.G. Ramsey (1909-1925) for the capture of Bowyer, who was described as being 6 feet, 2 inches tall, dark ginger color, weight 175 pounds with a lump or "wen" on the left side of his head below his ear.
Arnow died June 20, 1921, in the Williams Sanitarium in Gainesville after undergoing surgery to locate the bullet. He left behind his wife, the former Sarah Josephine Carlton, and three sons, Robert, age 12, Carl, age 11, and Matthew, age 9, and his mother Mattie Caroline Arnow. The Gainesville Sun reported that Arnow was a "kind and indulgent father, but firm in his discipline".
In late 1921, several months after the murder, a farmer at a turpentine mill about six miles from Valdosta, Georgia, apprehended Bowyer. Sheriff Ramsey testified that when he saw Bowyer in police headquarters in Valdosta that Bowyer had "freely and voluntarily" confessed to shooting Arnow. Ben Arnow, Robert Arrow's uncle, testified that he had visited Bowyer in jail after he was brought to Gainesville and that Bowyer had "admitted to him that he did the shooting and that the reason he did it was because Arnow was going to put him in jail".
The one-day trial for Bowyer was held in Gainesville on Thursday, January 13, 1922, before Judge Long. State Attorney Crews prosecuted the case. Colonel Robert W. Davis and K . S. Baxter were appointed by the court to defend Bowyer. Jury selection took only 3 5 minutes. One question that eliminated several prospective jurors was whether they could give the Negro the same consideration that they would a white man. If in doubt, the prospect was immediately asked to step down. (Gainesville Sun, Jan 13, 1922)
At the trial, Bowyer's defense was that on the night in question, he saw two men approach him and tell him "they wanted him". He said that as he turned to run, he stumbled and fell into a ditch and that "as he got up he shot twice". He claimed he did not recognize either of the men, only knowing that they were white men whom he feared might shoot him. He further stated that he knew Arnow, had worked for him and "thought a great deal of him" and "had nothing against him." He claimed to have been too drunk to recognize Arnow or his voice.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree, with no recommendation for mercy. On January 18, Judge long sentenced Bowyer to be "hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead". Governor Cary A. Hardee issued a death warrant for February 24, 1922. John Bowyer was hanged in the Alachua County jail yard on February 24, 1922.
According to a lengthy story run by the Gainesville Sun, Bowyer's pastor prayed for him and Bowyer himself addressed the crow, saying that "whiskey and bad women and neglect of the church and Sunday school had led him to the gallows. Bowyer was apparently the next to last man hung in Alachua County, as the state took over executions in 1924.
Ref "Forgotten Heroes" by Dr William Wilbanks, "The Gainesville Sun",
1906, June 10, 17, 1909, June 32, 22, 23, 192 1, July 17, 192 1, Jan 13, Feb 25, 1922. "The Story of Historic Micanopy" by Caroline B Watkins
Edited by Peggy Arnow Munroe (email@example.com)
This was the grandfather I never knew.