COUPEVILLE — This Island County community of 1,840 lost half of its already short-handed police force after the sole deputy town marshal was arrested Friday.
Hodges Gowdey III, 44, was arrested on suspicion of felony unlawful imprisonment and domestic-violence harassment, court papers show. His bail was set at $30,000.
The criminal allegations came to light during a background check because Gowdey had applied for a job at the Island County Sheriff’s Office, which is set to absorb the Coupeville Marshal’s Office in a couple of weeks.
Investigators allege that in 2007, Gowdey and his then-girlfriend got into an argument at the Coupeville police station. Afterward, he reportedly followed the woman, pulled her over and put her in handcuffs for about 10 minutes on the side of the road.
The woman recently told investigators that Gowdey has been calling and texting her since their breakup this past summer and has ordered her not to tell anyone about the handcuffing incident.
Gowdey has been with the Coupeville Marshal’s Office for more than 13 years. Court records also show he was charged and acquitted of domestic violence 15 years ago in Issaquah.
Gowdey’s arrest on Friday leaves Coupeville Marshal Lance Davenport, a former Mill Creek police commander, the last cop at the department.
The marshal’s office is set to merge into the Island County Sheriff’s Office on March 1, Davenport said Friday.
The four-officer Coupeville department lost three of its officers in 2012.
Since then, they’ve been working with the sheriff’s office, Oak Harbor police and reserve deputy marshals to provide police services to the town of about one square mile, Davenport said.
The marshal’s office had two reserve deputy marshals who were working nearly full-time but they left in January, he said.
On Jan. 29, the town gave Davenport and Gowdey layoff notices. Gowdey then applied for a job at the sheriff’s office.
During the hiring process, a background check brought up the new domestic violence allegations, Davenport said.
Gowdey was placed on paid administrative leave. Oak Harbor police were asked to conduct the criminal investigation.
Gowdey and the woman began dating in 2005, according to the probable cause affidavit. She told investigators Gowdey never assaulted her, but he was emotionally abusive. They dated off and on until July 2013, she said.
An internal investigation into Gowdey was conducted after a 2007 argument in the police station parking lot, court papers show. At the time, Gowdey and the woman did not tell investigators about him pulling her over afterward.
The woman recently told police that after she left the station that night, Gowdey pulled up behind her in his patrol car and screamed at her to get out of her car. He reportedly punched her car, grabbed her keys and pulled her out.
He then allegedly leaned her over the trunk and handcuffed her.
A judge on Friday ordered Gowdey to surrender any firearms, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said. The judge found probable cause for unlawful imprisonment and tampering with a witness, Banks said.
In Washington, people convicted of domestic violence, even at the misdemeanor level, generally cannot own firearms. The issue can be contentious when police officers are suspects because it can cause them to lose their jobs.
Gowdey was charged in King County in 1999 with fourth-degree domestic violence, a misdemeanor, court papers show. He was found not guilty at trial.
Meanwhile, the Island County Sheriff’s Office has been asked to police the town of Coupeville until the contract begins on March 1. The Coupeville Marshal’s Office was formed in the 1850s, Davenport said.
People in Coupeville still can call 911 for emergencies and 360-679-9567 for non-emergencies.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.