KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Veterans Day carries more weight for former Military Police Officer Jeremy Rowley and his family.
It marks the day that Jeremy watched his father-in-law get gunned down in front of him and the day when Jeremy almost lost his life.
Jeremy served as a military police officer between 1989 and 1992. He was stationed overseas in South Korea for a short time before his service was complete.
He moved back home to Kernersville where he became a deputy with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. His father-in-law James Johnson was also employed with the office as a reserve deputy.
11 years after he returned home, on November 11, 2004, Jeremy would find himself on the brink of life and death after a brutal mass murder spree in his neighborhood.
Early that Thursday evening near Vance Road in Kernersville, Jeremy’s former neighbor, Danny Booth, shot and killed two people.
Booth had moved from the neighborhood three months beforehand but was still upset over a dispute he had with his neighbor, Dwight Allen.
Booth shot and killed Allen in his backyard.
He then walked over to the home of Reba Idol and shot and killed her after he chased her around the home.
“I probably heard about a dozen rounds go off,” said Lori Rowley, Jeremy’s wife.
She remembered that she was on her way to work that night. She was backing out of her driveway when she heard the sound of gunfire.
She said she could tell it came from a high-powered weapon but did not fully know what was going on.
In the immediate moments that followed, Lori called her husband and told him about what she had heard.
She then called her mother, who lived just a few houses down from theirs on Vance Road.
As she spoke with her mother, Booth walked from Idol’s home toward Lori’s parent’s home. As he walked down their long driveway, he came face-to-face with Deputy Johnson who had just got home from work.
Booth pointed his rifle at Deputy Johnson and began to threaten his life.
Lori recalled the moment she found this out. She was still on the phone with her mother and heard the screams of her son.
“He was screaming, ‘Grandma, Denny’s out here with a gun and he said he’s going to kill [grandpa],'” Lori said.
She immediately hung up and called Jeremy who was still at home and off-duty.
He grabbed his bullet-proof vest and his deputy issued pistol and drove down the street to his father-in-law’s house.
“Went down there to see what was going on, and drove into a firefight basically,” Jeremy said during the Off the Cuffs Podcast with Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough.
He explained that when he got to his father-in-law’s house, Booth was holding Deputy Johnson at gunpoint on the front porch.
“He was trying to defuse the situation,” Lori said. “He did not have a gun, he was off-duty, but he was trying to defuse the situation. He knew he had a job to do. . . he died in the line of duty.”
While both deputies tried to calm Booth down, Jeremy told Deputy Johnson to try and get away. When he did, Booth shot him multiple times and killed him. He then turned his sights on Jeremy and opened fired.
“I got hit instantaneously,” Rowley said.
He was shot in the left arm first before being hit in other parts of his body.
“I didn’t realize I was hit in the chest or the neck until I was in the ambulance,” Jeremy said.
He returned fire. He knew he was hit, he knew he was out of ammo in his pistol and he knew he was bleeding fast.
Thinking quickly, he moved to the backside of his patrol car to remove his shotgun. He had to place the butt of the gun on the ground to cock the gun because he couldn’t move his arm.
In a desperate attempt to stop Booth from continuing his spree, Jeremy fired buckshot at Booth. Parts of the pellets hit Booth, while the other parts hit his high-powered rifle and caused it to jam.
By this time, other deputies had begun to arrive at the scene.
As he continued to lose consciousness, he told deputies where he last saw Deputy Johnson and told them that he needed help the most.
Jeremy had multiple surgeries to repair his left arm and to remove the shrapnel that is still being found in his body.
He has said that he is not a hero, but his wife begs to differ.
“To do what he did without hesitation . . . he did everything he could to save my dad,” Lori said. “It was poignant that a veteran was shot in his own neighborhood at his father in law’s house on Veterans Day…parts of those days just are always with you.”
Click here to see the full documentary about the Veterans Day shooting.