The Cypress Police Department continues to honor the memory of Sergeant Donald Sowma, its only officer to be killed in the line of duty, forty-six years later. The Department holds a memorial service at the Cypress Police Memorial outside the station each year near the anniversary of his death.
In the early morning hours of November 19, 1976, Sgt. Sowma, who was shift supervisor, responded with other officers to a silent burglar alarm call at the Pomeroy Medical Clinic in the 5600 block of Lincoln Ave. A search of the building turned up nothing, so police began to investigate the surrounding area. Bobby Joe Denney, who had been attempting to burglarize the clinic for drugs and money, was discovered hiding in an art gallery next door. Denney shot Sgt. Sowma once in the chest with a .38 caliber bullet. Sgt. Sowma would later succumb to his wound at the hospital.
Donald Sowma was 44 years old when he died, leaving behind a wife and four children. A street near the Cypress Civic Center is named in his honor. Department Chaplain Jerry Schumard, who was once Sowma’s commanding officer, remembers him as a “true soldier in the army of law enforcement,” describing him as someone who was looked up to by everyone.
Bobby Joe Denney, then 32 years old, was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. Each time he comes up for parole, the Cypress Police Department dispatches officers to peacefully protest. Denney was most recently eligible for parole in 2021, and was once again denied.
Several dignitaries were present at the memorial service, including Cypress City Councilmember and retired police officer Scott Minikus.
“I’m extremely honored to be here today. This is something we all in law enforcement live with everyday and that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our community shall never be forgotten,” said Councilmember Minikus.
Cypress Police Chief Mark Lauderback echoed his sentiments about the importance of remembering Sergeant Sowma’s sacrifice.
“It’s important to carry on the legacy of remembering him because what happened to him can happen to any of us,” he said. “He didn’t come to work thinking it would be his last day.”
Those wishing to show their support to the Cypress Police Department may donate through the Cypress Police Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit group.