On Monday, August 7, 1978, Sergeant Darlon “Dee” Dowell became the first Ventura police officer killed in the line of duty.
On August 6, four men tried to rob a businessman making a night deposit at the Bank of America on Victoria Avenue. The robbery was interrupted and the four suspects fled; two were apprehended immediately but Robert K. Lee, 22, and Keith Kuhne, 20, escaped.
The next day a team of seven Ventura police officers served arrest and search warrants on the two outstanding suspects. Sergeant Dowell, Detective Don Bales, Detective Carl Handy, and Officer Gary McCaskill approached the front door of the suspects’ house at 154 N. Olive while Sergeant Art “A. J.” Farrar, Detective John Leach, and Officer Don Arth set up a perimeter around the residence. Officers entered the home and were detaining Kuhne in the living room when Lee fired a shotgun from a darkened hallway, fatally wounding Sergeant Dowell. Lee then ran through the house, crashed through a rear window, and was shot and killed by pursuing officers.
At the time of his death, Sergeant Dowell, 32, was a nine-year veteran of the Ventura Police Department. We will remember him as a dedicated police officer, devoted husband, and loving father to his two young children.
The City of San Buenaventura named Dowell Drive, the location of police headquarters, in Dee’s honor in 1979.