LNA 02082019 Trooper 1

Virginia State Trooper Gavin Lee stands next to a memorial for fallen Trooper Lucas Dowell at the Appomattox Division headquarters on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. (Richard Chumney/The News & Advance)

APPOMATTOX —Jon Barbour first met Lucas Dowell in the Virginia State Police academy almost five years ago.

As young recruits, the two faced notoriously grueling conditions together during their first week of basic training. But despite the battery of physical and mental tests,Barbour said, Dowell showed no signs of “the doom and gloom” plastered across the faces of his fellow recruits.

In fact, Barbour said, Dowell would begin and end each day with a bright and unwavering grin.

“We were doing pushups all night, and this, that and the other, and he’s still got a smile on his face. And it’s almost like — what’s wrong with him?” Barbour joked. “But that was his attitude. That’s exactly where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do.”

His persona was infectious, Barbour and other trooper’s said Thursday at a meeting with reporters about Dowell’s life. They remembered him as a hard working trooper, loyal to his fellow officers and dedicated to the communities he served.

“He was always a great person to have working with you because you had complete and utter trust in him and he made you feel good,” he said. “Even in bad situations you felt good. I don’t know what else you could ask for in a shift partner.”

Dowell was killed Monday while attempting to execute a search warrant at a home outside Farmville alongside a state police tactical team and a local drug and gang task force.

He was 28 years old at the time of his death, with four years on the job.

Gavin Lee, a Buckingham County-based trooper who also graduated from the academy alongside Dowell, called him a natural police officer with an uproarious sense of humor.

“He’s just one of the most outstanding people that you would ever want to run across,” Lee said. “And you know, if you never had the chance to meet him, you missed out on a good opportunity.”

Lee said the news of Dowell’s death came as such a powerful shock he hardly managed to sleep Monday night.

“It was really hard to wake up that morning and put your badge on and put your vest on and go, you know, do your job when you have nothing to think about but Lucas,” Lee said. “I’m still going through it. I’ll think I’m doing okay and then I’ll catch a memory of him.”

Barbour and Lee, like other troopers across the state mourning the fallen colleague, wore black bands around their badges Thursday, with 876 — Dowell’s badge number — written in white lettering.

In the town of Amherst, Dowell’s cruiser has served as a makeshift memorial for the fallen officer since Tuesday. Locals have left dozens of cards and bouquets across the cruiser’s front hood and windshield.

“Buddy, I’m going to miss you so much! We will hold the line from here! Love, 1329,” one trooper wrote on a ribbon placed atop Dowell’s patrol vehicle, identifying themselves by their badge number.

“Thanks for always having my back,” another trooper wrote, signing as 1389. “I will miss you buddy, very greatly until we meet again.”

The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division, which includes much of the eastern portion of the Lynchburg region, has been flooded with calls of condolences and support from local police chiefs, sheriffs and lawmakers.

“The acts of kindness are just remarkable,” Dowell’s former field division commander, Craig C. Worsham, said.

Dowell’s path to the state police began at a young age, according to Worsham. He grew up dreaming of being a police officer, in part inspired by the trooper who lived across the street from his childhood home in Chilhowie — a small town in southwest Virginia.

Dowell graduated from Chilhowie High School before earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Radford University. After graduating from the state police academy in late 2014, he was assigned to patrol the Charlottesville-area.

In 2015, he joined the agency’s tactical team, a part-time role that required him to work some of the division’s most harrowing assignments.

About a year and a half ago, Dowell and Barbour transferred together to the Amherst office and last fall the two moved in together.

Barbour said Dowell was an avid hunter, fisher and snowboarder who would often spend his days off traveling across the state, visiting family back home and friends in northern Virginia.

“He made time for everybody,” Barbour said.

Dowell will be laid to rest Saturday in his hometown of Chilhowie. The funeral services will be held at Chilhowie Christian Church at 11 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

Photos: Honoring a fallen Virginia State Police trooper in Amherst

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