MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The case of a Tennessee man charged with trying to enter his former Jewish school with a gun and firing shots at a contractor who was working there can be presented to a grand jury for a possible indictment after he waived his preliminary hearing Thursday.
A judge signed off on Joel Bowman’s request to forgo a hearing during which the contractor could have testified about what happened when Bowman went to Margolin Hebrew Academy-Feinstone Yeshiva of the South on July 31 in Memphis.
Bowman, 33, had pleaded not guilty in the lower general sessions court to charges that include attempted second-degree murder and carrying a weapon on school property. His case now will move to criminal court and it likely will be presented to a grand jury for a formal indictment. A court-ordered evaluation showed he is able to understand the charges and help with his defense, his lawyer said.
Authorities say Bowman went to the school with a gun but was denied entry. Class was not in session but limited staff and construction workers were there.
In an affidavit, police said Bowman walked around the exterior of the school and fired two shots at the contractor, who was not hit. Bowman then fired two more shots outside the school before driving away in a pickup truck, police said.
Officers tracked down Bowman a short drive from the school, which he had attended. He exited his truck with a gun in his right hand and pointed the weapon at an officer, who shot him in the chest, police said. Bowman was hospitalized in critical condition and is now in custody at Shelby County Jail.
A possible motive for the attempt to enter the school has not been disclosed. Security officials for the Jewish community declined to discuss what safety measures were in use, but they have said places of learning, synagogues and community centers in Memphis and around the U.S. have strengthened security in recent years in light of a spate of shootings at places where Jewish people gather in public.
Bowman’s confrontation with police came 20 years after his father was fatally shot by officers while holding a gun during a mental health episode at the family home. A friend has told The Associated Press that Bowman was traumatized by his father’s death. Bowman’s lawyer, Lauren Massey Fuchs, said Bowman is on medication for an undisclosed illness.
“He is doing much better physically and mentally,” Fuchs said, adding that Bowman is receiving “great support” from his family and community members.
Bowman also has been indicted on a charge of aggravated burglary for allegedly entering a man’s home to commit theft on the same day he went to his former school. It was not immediately clear if, or how, the aggravated burglary charge is related to the school incident. He has pleaded not guilty.