CALLAHAN, Fla. – As the search for Patrick McDowell, who’s accused of shooting and killing Nassau County Deputy Josh Moyers, continued into day four, two retired officers who’ve helped end manhunts before were watching closely.
Hundreds of officers were searching thousands of acres in Nassau County on Monday, using resources like helicopters, drones, boats, infrared and K-9s.
Retired Jacksonville sheriff’s Officer Charlie Wilkie, who’s from western Nassau County and started his law enforcement career with the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, and his also-retired K-9 Gator are familiar with this scenario.
They’ve worked the woods, finding violent criminals and key evidence. Together, they discovered Cherish Perrywinkle’s body and Lonzie Barton’s remains.
“You start out with a track,” Wilkie said, referring to a scent. “You try to do that as much as you can when you start with.”
Wilkie has been watching the search for McDowell closely and passionately. Investigators said that after McDowell, a 35-year-old former Marine, shot Moyers, 29, during a traffic stop Friday, McDowell shot and wounded Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 Chaos as authorities closed in during the search for him.
“Very confident [they’re going to catch him]. They’ve got the federal, state, local — everybody’s looking,” Wilkie said. “It’s just going to be a matter of time before somebody spots him.”
Wilkie and Gator were at the center of a similar search in 2010, not far away from Callahan on Jacksonville’s Westside, when police were looking for Scott Kilgore, who was accused of killing his brother and another man and shooting and wounding his parents.
Retired Jacksonville sheriff’s Officer Jared Reston, no stranger to manhunts for murder suspects, was on the SWAT team that stepped in after a K-9 tracked Kilgore.
“He disappeared in the woods, and we had a five-day trek for him,” Reston said. “And we found him.”
Reston was one of four officers who got into a shootout with Kilgore as he hid in a boat on a rural property. Kilgore died. The officers weren’t hit.
Reston, who now trains law enforcement on tactics and safety, is confident in the teams looking for McDowell.
“That’s the thing, we’re not going give up,” he said. “We’re going to keep pushing and tracking him and keep going and keep going until this is done.”
Both Reston and Wilkie said time is running out for the suspect.
Police organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Florida Sheriff’s Association, are contributing to a reward, which has increased to $54,000 for information leading to McDowell’s arrest.
If you have any information about McDowell’s whereabouts, call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-8477 or dial **TIPS (star star 8477) on your cellphone. You will remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.