Father of slain city officer speaks of his son's sacrifice

Michael J. Cowdery Jr. was shot Monday

March 17, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Michael J. Cowdery Jr. was a financial manager before he decided that attacking crime was a better job than crunching numbers.

Maybe it was the blue uniform he saw his father put on for work at the Philadelphia Police Department. Maybe he just wanted to get away from home. But he knew the economics career he had studied for at Hampton University in Virginia did not excite him.

"He didn't seem fulfilled," said Cowdery's father, Michael Sr., 58, speaking publicly yesterday for the first time about his son's death as a Baltimore police officer. "He said, `Dad, I want to do something different.' The next thing I knew, he's in Baltimore."

The younger Cowdery, 31, was shot and killed Monday night as he and his colleagues interviewed a group of people outside a carryout in the 2300 block of Harford Road.

Howard Tyrone Whitworth, 31, has been charged in Cowdery's death and the wounding of another officer during an ensuing gunfight. He remains in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, recovering from a police officer's bullet to the side.

Cowdery's father, a 28-year veteran with the Philadelphia force, met with reporters at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore yesterday, a day before his son's funeral at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

He said he was worried when his son gave up his job as a financial manager to follow in his father's footsteps, then moved south to Baltimore to get away from home.

"I guess I've learned to accept certain things," Cowdery said in a calm, measured voice. "I know that in law enforcement, you see life, you see death. But when it hits home, it's difficult."

Mayor Martin O'Malley told the elder Cowdery that his son helped police here make "major strides in reducing crime and saving lives" as part of a task force assigned to quell homicides in East Baltimore.

The elder Cowdery said his son used to watch him dress for work, and that "it must have made an impression on him." He also recounted how his son would always be up when he returned from working a midnight shift.

His son's working as a police officer worried him, Cowdery said.

"I would try to give him the benefit of my experience. ... I always told him, `Keep safe. Don't take chances,'" Cowdery said.

"It's unfortunate that my son had to make the ultimate sacrifice to the city of Baltimore," he said. "I hope that his sacrifice will make a difference."

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