Why did Lawrence Police Officer William Garrett shoot and kill Rick “Tiger” Dowdell on July 16, 1970? The 263 relevant pages of a Kansas Bureau of Investigation file into one of Lawrence’s longstanding mysteries do little to help answer questions that have been raised over the last 52 years. But with the help of newly obtained investigative documents, Lawrence Times reporter Conner Mitchell has shed a bit more light on the case in this extended series.
We are very grateful for the Dowdell family’s trust and support of our push to obtain the records in this case.
We also sincerely thank our subscribers for making this series possible. We couldn’t do this without you. This kind of intensive research and storytelling takes a lot of time, and these kinds of records are expensive to pursue.
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“We could’ve killed him, gone home and had dinner. That’s how strong the hate was,” Sakeim Dowdell recalled, 52 years after a Lawrence police officer shot and killed his younger brother, Rick “Tiger” Dowdell.
All told, Tiger Dowdell’s murder — at the hands of a police department that had threatened to kill him shortly before his death, his grandmother told the KBI — drastically changed the fabric of Lawrence.
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Since the Lawrence City Commission in August 2020 approved creating historical markers to memorialize the 1970 police killings of two teenagers, the process to bring those markers to fruition has been slow, but it is moving forward.
The KBI will, at least temporarily, continue to keep in the dark records that could finally shed light on a case of police violence that has been imprinted in the fabric of Lawrence for exactly 51 years.
Seeking the truth always matters.
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