Michael E. Dowd: Colorado Fallen Heroes Biography | VailDaily.com

Michael E. Dowd: Colorado Fallen Heroes Biography

This photo from the Rocky Mountain News shows the scene outside of the Denver Post building in downtown Denver following the 1969 gunfight between James Sherbondy and Det. Michael Dowd.
Photo courtesy Eagle Valley Library District and Eagle County Historical Society

Det. Michael Dowd of the Denver Police Department died on December 6, 1997, from complications from injuries received when he was shot during an attempted arrest 28 years earlier.

On November 28, 1969, Dowd and his partner, Steve Metros, had just left the courthouse when they observed a Ford Thunderbird with four occupants traveling the same direction on westbound Colfax approaching Speer Blvd. They recognized one of the occupants as a felon named Louis Gomez and followed the car, but the driver (later identified as James “Mad Dog” Sherbondy, 49, spotted the unmarked police car and sped up to get away. The detectives activated their emergency equipment in an attempt to stop the car and a short chase ensued that ended in an alley near 13th and Welton Street.

Metros approached from the passenger side and held three of the men at gunpoint while the driver took off running with Dowd in pursuit. The foot pursuit ended near 15th and California when Dowd rounded the corner and was grabbed by Sherbondy, who immediately began shooting Dowd. Dowd got off one shot, which struck Sherbondy in the left armpit causing his death within minutes. 

Dowd was shot six times and transported to Denver General Hospital with bullet wounds to his left shoulder, abdomen, left leg and three shots to his right leg. The abdominal injury resulted in damage to his liver and pancreas.

Fingerprints later identified the shooter as Sherbondy, an escapee from the prison honor camp at Buckley Air Base, 50 days earlier.

Dowd was off for nine months before returning briefly to the force in Sept. 1970. He was off again in 1972 to remove one of the bullets in his leg and deal with additional issues with his pancreas. From that point on, he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. 

He subsequently underwent several other surgeries, including the removal of his pancreas in 1974. His job, when he returned to work, was to manage the DPD Police Athletic League (PAL) program due to his restricted physical ability. 

Dowd received a disability retirement in 1991 with medical conditions including peripheral vascular disease, ischemic heart disease, diabetic retinopathy and, later, congestive heart failure. Both legs were subsequently amputated too.

Dowd died six years later at age 62. He had begun his career with the Denver Police Department in 1959.