‘I knew I got hit’: Retired Forsyth County deputy recounts harrowing night of shootout with angry neighbor

Real Heroes

The scars on retired Capt. Jeremy Rowley’s arm tell a story. If you didn’t know it, you might think he was injured in a bad accident. But it was no accident. In fact, you could say he earned those scars on Nov. 11, 2004; the same day he earned the title “hero.”

“I was actually downstairs in our laundry room when my wife called me in a panic,” he said.

Her father, James Johnson, a reserve deputy with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, was in trouble. An angry neighbor by the name of Denny Booth had shown up to his property with a gun. Rowley wasn’t working but training kicked in.

“I grabbed my vest and threw it on over my Carhartt T-shirt with my outer carrier and I grabbed my handgun and my radio,” he said.

It was less than a mile to his father-in-law’s farm off Vance Road.

“I pulled down the driveway and I saw James and Denny standing out in the driveway and Denny had a rifle in his hand,” Rowley said. “I stopped, got out of the car and James pushed off to the side and then it was just Denny and I and we immediately started firing on each other.”

As soon as the shooting started, Rowley took a hit in the left arm.

“I knew I got hit because it just immediately dropped to my side and I couldn’t move it or lift it or anything,” Rowley said.

And because he left the house in such a hurry without grabbing extra magazines for his handgun, Rowley was out of ammunition too.

“He (Booth) was lying on the ground and I was just trying to process my next step,” Rowley said.

He remembered his department-issued shotgun in his trunk, and slowly made his way around his cruiser that he’d been using as a shield. The chilling crime scene photos from that night show the amount of gunfire Rowley took on and his trail of blood.

Amazingly, Rowley managed to load and operate his Remington 870 pump-action shotgun with one hand. He rested his shotgun barrel on the window frame of his cruiser and continued to give Booth commands. As Booth started to lift his rifle, Rowley fired his shotgun once, hitting Booth’s rifle and making it useless.

“By this time, I was pretty spent,” Rowley said. “I had lost a lot of blood, so I went and just kind of leaned myself up against a fence right next to the pasture.”

“It seemed like an eternity for the first units to arrive. It just really seemed like it took a long, long time. And in all actuality, it was just a few minutes,” Rowley said.

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