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Bowers firing said triggered by arrests

August 16, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - A member of a citizens committee in Smithsburg contends that Police Chief Tommy Bowers was terminated this week in part because his department arrested some people with ties to town officials.

Sherry Owen, former chairwoman of the Citizens' Police Advisory Committee, said one of those arrests involved a man on an assault charge.

Richard Darrell Burr Jr., who has done handyman work for Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers, was found guilty of second-degree assault following an incident this past Jan. 1 in town, according to officials and Maryland District Court records.

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Bowers said he was on routine patrol in an alley behind East Water Street when a teenager flagged him down and told him that a man was beating his wife inside a home at 13 E. Water St., according to court records.

Bowers and town officer Shawn Tyler responded to the house, and a woman inside said her husband hit her in the face after coming home drunk, court records said.

Burr, 32, of 13 E. Water St., was fined $255, according to court records.

Myers denied that any arrest Bowers' department made influenced the decision to terminate him.

"That's police matters. I don't get involved," she said.

Myers has declined to explain why Bowers was terminated.

The Smithsburg Police Department also arrested Douglas Wayne Pryor, 18, of 45 W. Water St., on Aug. 6, 1996, for incidents involving alleged reckless endangerment and assault of his girlfriend.

The next day Pryor, 17 at the time, escaped from the Washington County Juvenile Holdover but was recaptured almost immediately. He later pleaded guilty to escape and battery in the incident, according to court records.

Pryor is the nephew of Smithsburg Councilman Gene Pryor, who said Friday that he had no comment on Bowers' termination.

Bowers said Myers put "subtle pressure" on him when Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr. was given a speeding ticket by Tyler on May 13.

Kauffman complained to Myers that Tyler acted unprofessionally, Bowers said.

Bowers said Myers told him to look into Kauffman's complaint, although Bowers said he did not think there was anything to it.

Kauffman said Friday that "I didn't care for (Tyler's) attitude when he wrote me that ticket" and he believes he was outside the town limits at the time anyway.

"I just thought he was kind of smart," Kauffman said.

Kauffman said he mentioned the incident to both Myers and Bowers but that had nothing to do with Bowers' dismissal.

"Tommy Bowers is a real good friend of mine," Kauffman said. "I think Tommy Bowers is doing a great job."

The decision to terminate Bowers has outraged some Smithsburg residents, who credit Bowers with curbing drug problems in town.

They describe Bowers as a "law and order" cop, who also devoted a lot of time to developing positive relationships with children in town.

The police advisory committee set up neighborhood watch groups, raised funds for the D.A.R.E. drug prevention program and acted as a liaison between the public and the police department, Owen said.

"What I'm trying to do is to get people to think," said Owen.

Staff Writer Ellen Lyon contributed to this story.

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