Nassau County, FL – A massive manhunt is underway for the gunman who fatally shot Nassau County Deputy Josh Moyers during a traffic stop early Friday morning.
More than 300 people are currently participating in the search for the alleged shooter, 35-year-old convicted felon Patrick McDowell, CNN reported.
Deputy Moyers, 29, was attacked during a 2 a.m. traffic stop in Callahan on Sept. 24, according to investigators.
Police later discovered the vehicle, which was allegedly being driven by McDowell, was stolen, CNN reported.
The interaction between Deputy Moyers and McDowell was captured by Deputy Moyers’ bodycam, according to The Florida Times-Union.
At one point during the stop, Deputy Moyers went back to his patrol vehicle to run a check on McDowell and discovered his name didn’t match the ownership records of the suspect vehicle.
The deputy went back to the driver and asked him if he had any weapons and to step out of the vehicle, according to investigators.
“The driver’s arm came out of the vehicle with a handgun and shot the deputy right here,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper later told reporters, gesturing towards his face.
When Deputy Moyers collapsed to the ground after the first gunshot, the gunman “reached out and shot him in the back,” Sheriff Leeper said.
McDowell then sped off in the stolen vehicle before abandoning it in a nearby wooded area and fleeing on foot, The Florida Times-Union reported.
A female passenger who was inside the car at the time of the shooting has been cooperating with police, Nassau County Sheriff’ Office (NCSO) Public Information Officer Ashely Spicer said.
“She basically told us who he is, because he lied when we pulled them over,” Spicer told CNN. “It was a stolen vehicle.”
More photos of our suspect Patrick McDowell. Please call police ASAP if you see him. pic.twitter.com/M6QwbGlyzR
— Nassau County SO (@NCSO_FL) September 24, 2021
Deputy Moyers was transported to UF Health in Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries.
Sheriff Leeper announced on Saturday that the wounded deputy would not recover and that his fiancé and family had decided to donate his organs to help others, CNN reported.
Deputy Moyers was pronounced dead on Sunday.
“It is with great sadness that I announce Deputy Josh Moyers has passed away this afternoon,” Sheriff Leeper confirmed in a tweet later that night. “Please keep Josh’s family and fiancé in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate this terrible tragedy.”
Please pray for Deputy Josh Moyers, his family, fiancé, friends, and his NCSO brothers and sisters during this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/r9QchXcoay
— Nassau County SO (@NCSO_FL) September 24, 2021
A manhunt for McDowell inside the 3,000-acre, five-square-mile area investigators established on Friday remains ongoing, CNN reported.
K9s, drones, and helicopters are all being used to aid the multiagency foot search, but Spicer said police need the community’s help as well, WFLA reported.
A reward of $35,000 is being offered for information leading to McDowell’s arrest.
“This guy is dangerous,” Sheriff Leeper reiterated, according to The Florida Times-Union. “If you’re in a home and he breaks into your home and you have a gun, blow him out the door cause he’s like a rabid animal. He will kill you with his mindset. What he did to that deputy was uncalled for, unnecessary and he needs to pay for it.”
McDowell served in the U.S. Marines and received ongoing survival training while working for a security company years ago, WJXT reported.
Weapons instructor Del Angelo told the news outlet McDowell had been one of his students.
“I did his training and then his annual recertification for about three years,” Angelo said. “That was about 10 or 12 years ago.”
Angelo said the alleged gunman is well-equipped to survive on his own in the wilderness, WJXT reported.
“He’s very much a survivalist and he’s been military trained on survival and weapons use. So, he’s very accomplished at survival and being unrecognized,” he explained. “He can’t change his appearance but he can sure hide well and know how to stay out of people’s line of sight.”
“I know he was military trained, and he was a very good student, very professional. I didn’t know anything negative about him,” Angelo added. “He was very accomplished in his use of a handgun.”
McDowell was on drug-offender probation for a forgery conviction at the time of the attack, The Florida Times-Union reported.
He also has prior arrests for aggravated possession of stolen firearms and giving a false name to law enforcement.
McDowell has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and depression in the past, and was previously committed for psychiatric examination under Florida’s Baker Act, according to The Florida Times-Union.
His father, Richard McDowell, told the paper his son “hasn’t been the same since he returned from Iraq.”
He said his son has struggled with mental health issues and drug abuse, but that it is no excuse “for what he did,” The Florida Times-Union reported.
“I hope no one else is hurt apprehending him,” Richard McDowell said, adding that he also hopes his son will be okay.