ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- At 4:42 a.m. on July 14, 2015, Officer Charles Lowe felt the hair stand up on his neck.
“I had butterflies in my stomach, the hair on my body was standing up. Something didn’t feel right but I couldn’t put my finger on it,” he said.
Lowe was sitting in his car at North Euclid and Maryland Avenue, and a car was slowly approaching from his left. His body sensed what was coming before his mind could prepare for it.
“Everything slowed down like super slow motion.,” Lowe recalls. “The car pulled up, and I saw a guy whose description matched a guy I had just seen standing on the corner literally five minutes before. I saw his silhouette and I thought, ‘That’s strange, why is he pulling up like this?’
Lowe was on secondary patrol, a practice where off-duty officers work in certain neighborhoods seeking extra security. He was in his own car, but the men inside the approaching vehicle, 27-year-old Edward Davis and 23-year-old Dale Wolford, had seen his uniform. They knew he was a police officer.
Right as the car got in front of Lowe, blocking him in, Wolford got out.
“He turns to me, he has a bandana wrapped around his head. He dropped his hand and I saw he had a gun. Then he immediately jumped out and started shooting,” Lowe said.
Surveillance video of the ambush was released Thursday. In the black and white footage, captured by a camera mounted 20 feet above the attack, the violence happens unceremoniously. Davis and Wolford casually roll up to Lowe’s car, and Wolford hops out to empty his gun into the windshield with a practiced ease. There is no sound. The only indication a gunfight is taking place is the puffs of debris popping off the glass as Wolford’s shots enter the car and the flashes from Lowe’s gun as he fires back.
One of Wolford’s shots connected, hitting Lowe in his side.
“As soon as I was hit, I knew I was hit. I didn’t know how bad. I was trying to psychologically stay in the gunfight,” he remembers. The first thing I thought about was my family during the gunfight. I know that sounds strange. Then I remember being super, super vigilant of my sights, my weapon, my trigger control, everything I had learned over the last 18,19 years.”
Lowe survived the attack, and both Wolford and Davis were eventually caught. They were sentenced in February, with Davis set to serve 25 years and Wolford 35.
Though the shooting was three years ago, Lowe has had to relive it many times. He went through a grueling two-week process in court during which he recounted the attack in vivid detail.
“Any victim that goes through that process, it’s tough. It’s tough to relive that story and tell your story to a jury or even a judge,” he said. “Emotionally, you totally go back to how you were feeling and you feel all the things you felt physically.”
He told the story, and watched and re-watched the surveillance video; finally seeing footage of him nearly losing his life from the clinically detached perspective of a camera lens.
“It’s kind of surreal. Being on the inside watching out, then seeing the video from the outside, it’s like watching someone else’s life even though I lived it,” he said.
Lowe returned to the force after the shooting. For one, he wanted to continue to provide for his family. Perhaps more importantly, he didn’t want the moment to define him.
“I wanted to be bigger than this situation. I didn’t want this situation to end my career and that was it. It has to be more than this, so I fought to come back,” he said.
Now, he’s trying to turn his attack into something positive for the community. Saturday, the 3-year anniversary of his shooting, Lowe will lead the Victims Against Violence Walk. The event is intended to bring create engagement between the police department and the community.
Lowe, victims of recent shootings, government officials and local residents will walk together from 920 North Vandeventer Avenue to the water fountain at York Avenue and Maryland Plaza.
“The message is to let the community know we as officers in the city, sometimes while doing our duties, we become victims as well,” Lowe said. “I was a victim. I was ambushed like so many other victims in our city and state. It’s time for us to mend the differences and see that we have more things alike than not.”
Anyone who wants to join the walk is welcome, and registration begins at 7 a.m. For more on the walk, email email@example.com or call 314-366-5299.
Lowe, who is now a 20-year veteran of the police department, hasn’t forgotten the attack. He also hasn’t forgotten why he became a police officer, or his hopes for St. Louis.
“We can do better as a city,” he said.