Crews search into night for man accused of shooting Nassau County deputy

35-year-old man sought in connection with shooting early Friday morning near US 301

CALLAHAN, Fla. – Law enforcement officers from around Northeast Florida are searching for a former Marine suspected of shooting a Nassau County deputy twice early Friday morning during a traffic stop in Callahan.

A spokeswoman for the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office said Patrick McDowell, 35, (pictured below) is considered “armed and dangerous.” If you see him, you are asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office immediately at 904-548-4000.

Patrick McDowell is a former Marine who was stopped driving a stolen car in Callahan early Friday morning.

Nassau County investigators said the surveillance images pictured above were taken overnight Thursday, before Friday morning’s traffic stop and shooting, and show the clothes McDowell was believed to be wearing.

GALLERY: Manhunt for Patrick McDowell, man accused of shooting deputy

Deputy Joshua Moyers, 29, who was shot in the face and back, was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with life-threatening injuries.

During an evening news conference, Sheriff Bill Leeper said the search would continue into the night. He said units were going through “several acres” and noted that it was a large search area.

RELATED: Sheriff asks for prayers for Deputy Moyers | Schools, trains, traffic: Community impacts of manhunt for suspect

He said the darker it gets, the more challenging the search will become.

“We have helicopters, drones and that can detect heat in the dark,” Leeper said. “We’ll continue until we find him. He’s out there somewhere and we’re gonna locate him.”

Several Nassau County deputies were seen outside the hospital where Moyers was being treated Friday morning, sharing hugs of support.

“Officers will gather in situations like this to support each other, support the family, to offer prayers up for the injured officer as well,” said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson. “We have to rally around each other to support each other because it’s a very emotional time.”

Leeper said McDowell also shot a JSO K9 with a rifle during the manhunt. The K9 is expected to be OK. Investigators found the rifle near where the K9 was shot.

Leeper posted a tweet with more photos of the suspected shooter, asking anyone who has seen him to call authorities as soon as possible.

A previous police report for McDowell indicated he is a veteran, and according to a LinkedIn page under his name, he served in the U.S. Marines from 2005-2009.

Traffic stop turns violent

Leeper said Moyers pulled over a burgundy-colored minivan early Friday morning on US 301, and McDowell, who was driving, turned onto Sandy Ford Road before pulling over just in front of some train tracks. A woman was in the passenger seat of the van, Leeper said, when Moyers learned McDowell -- who gave him a false name -- didn’t have a driver’s license and that the tag on the van belonged to a different vehicle.

Leeper said investigators later learned the vehicle had been stolen from Jacksonville.

Leeper said the encounter, which was captured on dashcam video, turned violent when Moyers went to open the driver’s door and get McDowell out of the van -- just as a train began to pass on the tracks. He said the lights and flashers of the train crossing began going off, and that’s when McDowell’s arm came out of the vehicle holding a handgun and he shot the deputy in the face.

Deputy Joshua Moyers was shot twice during an early morning traffic stop -- once in the face, once in the back as he fell to the ground.

When the deputy fell to the ground, Leeper said, McDowell reached out and shot him in the back before slamming on the gas and speeding through the railroad crossing just as the arms were coming down.

Leeper said the backup deputy Moyers had called arrived about 30 seconds later and found him lying in the road.

Leeper said he visited the hospital where Moyers was taken and called his condition “very critical.”

“We’re not sure he’s going to make it or not,” Leeper said, fighting emotion.

He said Moyers, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2015, and his fiance have been planning their wedding. “Keep them in your prayers,” Leeper said.

Agencies join manhunt

After speeding away from the shooting, McDowell and the woman who was with him abandoned the van in a wooded brush area and hid under a shed nearby, but the woman told McDowell she didn’t want to be involved, left him and called 911, Leeper said. She was the one who told deputies who they were looking for.

News4Jax found that McDowell has at least three recent arrests in Duval County: one for a traffic stop and two for failure to appear in court.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and state patrol personnel have been seen searching along U.S. 301 near Higginbotham Road and Sandy Ford Road. Leeper said at least 15 agencies have assisted them in the manhunt. People in the area were asked to stay indoors.

“If you’re on the streets at the time as a police officer your adrenaline automatically shoots up because what you want to do is find this guy as quick as you possibly can and bring him in and let him face his fate,” Jefferson said. “That’s what’s going on right now. It’s an all-out search.”

JSO posted to social media asking anyone with external cameras in the area, including hunting cameras, to check their footage for McDowell and call Nassau County with any information.

About the Authors:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor