Hundreds Turn Out for FOP Signing

By Lindsey Connell - bio | e-mail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  One by one, people came out to the Columbus Public Safety Building, eager to sign a petition to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to keep the convicted killer of a local cop behind bars.

Officer Thomas Bowen was murdered while responding to a burglary call in March of 1984. Lonnie Botts plead guilty to the crime. He has been in prison for more than twenty years and many want to make that's where he stays.

"He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole and we want to make sure that Lonnie Botts spends the rest of his life behind bars and never, ever walks free again. What we like to do is overwhelm them because they do have to look at every single letter and email they receive and we figure between the letters and emails, a few thousand, will get out point across," said Major Randy Robertson, President of the local Fraternal Order of Police.

Police officers weren't the only ones who came out to sign their names on the dotted line.

"It's very important that we see that when somebody is put in prison, they serve their whole term. They've gone through our legal system and it's important they serve their term," said petitioner Tony Oxford

"He was a great friend of mine. In fact, we rode together a lot and I just hate it and I'm down here to see if I can help keep the guy in jail," said retired Sergeant Joseph Robbins, another petitioner.

Bowen's family looked on as hundreds walked thru the door, showing their support for a crime that happened nearly twenty five years ago.

"It's been great. There's been a huge response from the community and we really appreciate it. It means a lot to our family," said Bowen's sister Carolyn Rodger.

"It makes us very happy to see that the citizens of Columbus are willing to stand up for the family of a slain law enforcement officer," added Robertson.

The Fraternal Order of Police will be sending out a few thousand petitions to the Board of Pardons and Paroles tonight.

Botts' parole hearing is scheduled for next week.

If you weren't able to make it today, you can email, call or write a letter to the Parole Board.

Send letter to:

Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles

Attn: Office of Victim Services

#2 Martin Luther King Jr.,Dr., SE

Atlanta, GA 30334-4909

Telephone:  (404) 656-5651

Case #175170

All letters, emails or calls must be received by the Parole Board by February 24th, 2009.