When the interview ends and you think about Joshua Ray Bowers, a few of those things called “key words” come to mind – high energy, compassionate, fun-loving, dedicated, big heart, dog lover, East Tennessee through and through, loves his buddies and is a workout demon.
Everyone at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, his family and friends call this man “Bubba” – Deputy Bubba Bowers. He’s 35, a 16-year KCSO veteran, a Blount County boy, born in Friendsville, graduate of William Blount High School (class of 2005) and today a resident of Maryville … and still a bachelor.
Prior to going on patrol 11 years ago, he worked five years at the Knox County Detention Center after he began his career on December 4, 2006.
Bubba??? When he was very young, he enjoyed watching baseball on TV, especially the New York Yankees. “They had a player named Bubba Trammell and I told my Dad I liked that name and to call me that, so they did,” he explained. That little boy had no way of knowing that Trammell is a native of Knoxville, a Central High School graduate who played baseball there and at the University of Tennessee. He spent seven years in the big leagues and today lives in Knoxville.
Most if not all law enforcement professionals abhor talking about themselves. But Bubba shared a little about Bubba:
- “Honestly I like the psychological challenge of this job.”
- “I’m super high energy all the time. Sitting still is not what I do – ever.”
- “I am a hard worker, rarely sick …”
- “I work out at the gym two hours a day seven days a week.”
- “I like to do stuff with my dogs and go to the mountains and work on old jeeps and cars.”
And about those dogs. Bowers is the Sheriff’s Office’s senior canine handler over the department’s 18 canines and became a canine officer shortly after he began his career. For seven years his partner was Zoli, now 9, retired and living with Bowers as his “couch and lap dog pet.” His current canine partner is Tripp. He is 5 and also lives with Bowers. Both are Belgian Malinois. Both are dominant male dogs, he says, adding that “they literally hate each other. I have to keep them apart all the time.”
Zoli developed an eye disease and is almost blind. He talked about Zoli, how she did more than just protect him. “Zoli saved me from having to shoot someone in what was a very close encounter and it was on Groundhog Day 2020. We answered a call about a naked man who was on drugs and had gotten into a fight. I used my Taser on him twice and that didn’t stop him. I had my gun out but I managed to get to the car to let Zoli out. That changed the situation. He took the guy down and saved me from a lot of mental stress if I had shot him.”
He says of his current partner, “Tripp is a great police dog, top notch, but he’s not a pet like Zoli. He does not relax, he’s very driven to work, and he’s so good at that work.”
Both dogs are trained bomb-sniffing dogs, not drugs, and Bowers has used both on his assignments at the University of Tennessee. On Thursdays and Fridays before UT football games the dogs – along with two UT Police dogs – sweep Neyland Stadium from top to bottom. On game days, eight hours before kickoff, they sweep the stadium again. They do the same at Thompson-Boling Arena before UT basketball games and all concerts.
Bowers patrols Knox County from Tazewell Pike at the county line all the way to end of Alcoa Highway. It’s a big area. “But I always feel safe with the dogs. People feel safe fighting or approaching me but they really don’t want to fight the dogs when they see them,” he says.
Not long ago, Bowers met and fell in love with a young boy who has muscular dystrophy – Peyton Hickman. Their paths crossed at Bonny Kate Elementary School in 2018. “His dream is to be a police officer and he’s a very special kid,” he said. “We went to his school and presented him with a real KCSO badge and made him an honorary deputy. I’ve visited him at his home and not long ago he was selling cookies so I stopped by and bought a bunch. He’s a buddy of mine for sure.”
In October 2018, Bowers was honored as the KCSO Officer of the Month for his quick and relentless work in locating and arresting a domestic violence suspect. “This guy drove his car into his girlfriend’s home and held a gun to her head. He’d fled when we showed up and later on I recognized him putting air in his tires and he was smoking meth. He had a gun in his car, too.”
Bowers is seeing a lot of drug use in south Knox County. “Heroin is everywhere along with meth and now we’re seeing the deadly drug Fentanyl come in,” he said.
We missed one key word about this deputy – unselfish. Before our interview ended, he had to sneak in one important thing. “I have some of the best beat partners anyone could have,” he said. “Kaleb Lee, Chad Davenport, Brett Cox, Josh Fischer and Carson Kaiser. They are all very good at what they do and they help me love what we all do on every shift.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at [email protected] or call him at 865-659-3562.