Donald J. Sowma, Sr., a forty-four year old Cypress Police Department Sergeant was murdered on November 19, 1976. Sgt. Sowma, along with other officers, had responded to a silent burglar alarm. He was shot while searching the premises. The suspect was later apprehended.
Sgt. Sowma was born April 14, 1932 in New York. He was survived by his wife, Colleen Ann Sheldon and four children, Michael Robert, Donald Jack Jr., Donna Marie and James Patrick. They were age 20 years to 13 years of age at the time of his death.
Sowma graduated from Orange Coast Police Academy in 1964 and joined the Cypress Police Department. Sowma promoted to detective in 1967 at the top of the eligibility list, and in 1968 he was promoted to Sergeant.
In 1970 Sgt. Sowma was named as the Officer of the year by the Cypress Police Department. Selected by all of the officers as “The most outstanding man in their numbers” a tribute of their respect for Don’s abilities and his dedication to saving lives.
Promoted to Lieutenant in 1972 and to Instate Commander in 1975; however, Sowma voluntarily requested to return to the field in the rank of Sergeant so he could be in the field with his men. He wanted to be with them rather than assigned to the station.
Sadly in November 1976 Sgt. Sowma’s live was cut short when he was killed in the line of duty in Cypress, California after serving the community as a police officer for 12 years.
Sgt. Sowma’s death was the first killing of an Orange County Policeman since 1972 and was the first Cypress Policeman killed in the line of duty since the department was formed 17 years before.
Down the street from the Cypress Police Department homes were being built at the time of his death and one of the Streets there was named in his honor, Sowma Way.
The following letter and poem was written for Sgt. Sowma by Brad Gates, Sheriff – Coroner, at the time of his death.
It is with deep sorrow that we have once again experienced the death of one of our fellow peace officers Sergeant Donald J. Sowma of the Cypress Policy Department was shot while searching the premisis of a business extablishment for a burglar the early morning hours of November 19, 1976.”
We authored the following poem in the hope that Donald Sowma’s death is not quickly erased from our memory:
We are proud of you, Donald
Proud of all you did
You made your city and profession better
with law and order, too.
You never counted the hours
a job takes to be done
You’d work throughout a long, dark night
–thru dawn or setting sun.
In times like these when standards
sometimes seem to go awary,
We know that your strong principles
always keep our banner high.
Superbly trained and experienced,
alert to take a call
When crises came which needed your skill
you were ready, standing tall.
You, Orange County can feel blessed
by kindly, smiling faced
In that they gave us a person and a lawman
In the likes of Donald Sowma.
Hasta Luego, Compadre…
Sheriff – Coroner”