Just hours after her brother, Lucas Dowell, died, officers from the Virginia State Police and the Metropolitan Police Department showed up in the middle of the night at her residence in Washington, D.C., Erica Dowell recalls. They helped her pack before she set off for Richmond to meet up with her parents.
Lucas, a 28-year-old Virginia State Trooper and tactical team member, had been struck by gunfire Feb. 4 while trying to serve a search warrant at a home in Farmville, a few hours away.
Erica, who was in the audience years earlier when her brother graduated from the state police academy, told Fox News she remembered hearing the speakers “talk about how it was a family” — not only for the troopers, but for their loved ones as well.
The help they provided that night, Erica said, “is just a small example” of the “many things they have done to be supportive of us.”
“I think every person who lived in Chilhowie came to the funeral,” she said. “We just heard from police families across the country and troopers and officers from around the country just letting us know how sorry they are.”
A portrait of Dowell now hangs inside the Virginia State Police Academy and was unveiled in early May in a ceremony that also paid tribute to the other officers in their ranks who'd lost their lives.
First Sgt. Matthew Riley, who was Dowell’s supervisor when he entered the state police, told Fox News the portrait is “a reminder of how dangerous of a job it can be, and that no matter what the circumstance is, any loss of life is just tragic."
“Every law enforcement officer is someone’s son or daughter, or husband or wife,” he said. “Sometimes I say we take our people for granted and once you lose them, that is it.”
Riley was recovering from a bicep injury the first time he met Dowell – and was introduced to his sense of humor.
“He walked in brand new and I had my left arm in a cast, and he looked at me and said, ‘there is no way you are my supervisor,’” Riley said.
Dowell was known for keeping an upbeat demeanor during his four-year tenure with the Virginia State Police.
“It didn’t matter how long the day was or how grim the scene was, where we were at, he always had a smile or positive attitude no matter the circumstances,” Riley said.
Virginia State Trooper Corey Sheron told Fox News that Dowell loved being on its tactical team – and during the years they worked together as road troopers, he was always eager to be sent to his next assignment.
“You would literally have to beat him to the call,” Sheron says, “and even then he would fight you for it.”
Those who knew Dowell say he loved to work out, travel, play video games and go snowboarding – but he also always made time for his friends and family.
“I was looking back through text messages from him last night,” Erica Dowell said. “I guess I had had a bad day in January and he shared a clip of Frank Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life' and he said, ‘If you are having a bad day, we are both having a bad day.’”
She added: “He would answer any time you called, day or night."
And sometimes, when Lucas Dowell would make calls himself, he would, as his obituary noted, demonstrate his talents as a gifted storyteller.
“He would call during the day and just launch right into it – ‘you wouldn’t believe the day I had’…and it would be 10 minutes before you get a word in,” Erica Dowell said.
Dowell had long-term aspirations to work in federal law enforcement and Erica says he “saw so much value in the work that he was doing as part of the tactical team.”
Now, his memory lives on in places like the police academy, where the stories of his service act as a model for the next wave of Virginia State Police recruits.
“It was just the greatest pleasure of my life to be Lucas’ sister and his friend,” Erica said.