Erbie Bowser: A ‘Gentle Giant’ Who Snapped

Erbie Bowser—6-foot-7, 400 pounds, and a former special education teacher—allegedly killed his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend in a Dallas spree. Christine Pelisek on the warning signs in his file.

08.09.13 1:53 PM ET

Erbie Bowser, a onetime dancer for the Dallas Mavericks’ male dance team who was nicknamed E-Luv, was arrested Wednesday after he went on a murder spree in the Dallas area, killing four people, including his ex-wife and estranged girlfriend, and wounding four others. Police are trying to figure out why the 6-foot-7, 400-pound former special education teacher snapped.

“It is quite a tragedy,” said Dallas Police Department officer Monica Cordova. “I don’t know the motive or why he did it. We don’t have that information yet.”

So far, Bowser has been charged with two counts of capital murder in DeSoto, a suburb of Dallas. Charges are pending in Dallas.

Police say the violent rampage began on Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m., when Bowser walked into the Dallas home of his estranged girlfriend, 43-year-old Toya Smith, and opened fire, killing her and her 17-year-old daughter Tasmia Allen and injuring her 14-year-old son and a 17-year-old female family friend.

Dallas police say they were called to the scene by Smith’s mother, Lurlean, who had moments earlier been speaking to her daughter on the phone about problems she was having with Bowser when the phone was abruptly disconnected. “After the conversation she called back and didn’t get an answer and proceeded to gather family members to go to the location, and when she arrived at the house she called 911,” said Cordova. “She went inside the house and found the victims.”

Lurlean Smith told a Dallas television station that she watched as her daughter took her final breath and found the body of her granddaughter with a bullet to the back of her head.

After talking to family members there, police detectives immediately contacted the DeSoto Police Department believing that Bowser was heading to the nearby city to kill his ex-wife Zina Bowser. DeSoto police say that at the same time they got the call from Dallas police they received a 911 call from “one of the children inside [Zina Bowser’s] house” at 10:45 p.m., said DeSoto Police Department officer Nick Bristow.

“Things were happening rather quickly,” he said.

Unfortunately they were too late.

Once at his ex-wife’s house, Bowser threw a hand grenade that “went off” in the living room and then shot and killed Zina and 28-year-old Neima Williams. He also wounded two boys, ages 11 and 13, before police arrived. Once there, Bowser reportedly pretended he was one of the victims and appeared catatonic and gave the officers his name, military rank, and a serial number.

According to DFW News in Dallas, Bowser served in the army from October 1991 to November 2000 in bases in New York and Hawaii, and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.

As Bowser sits in a Dallas jail, police are trying to piece together what made the former teacher allegedly kill. For all intents and purposes he seemed a likable guy. According to Laura Jobe, an administrative officer with the Mesquite Independent School District, Bowser, who worked as a special education teacher there from December of 2001 to March of 2010, was well liked by his colleagues. “He was described as a gentle giant,” she said. “He was soft-spoken and an extremely kind individual. What a surprise it is. It’s just awful. We were just shocked to hear it today. He left us on good terms.”

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Jobe says it was Bowser’s first job as a teacher when he was hired by the school district. Bowser also volunteered as an assistant coach for the West Mesquite High School football team from 2007 and 2008.

While he was teaching, Bowser was also a member of the Dallas Mavs ManiAACs, an all-male dance team, until the summer of 2009, and went by the nickname “E-Luv.” According to a 2011 bio on the group’s website, his favorite actress is Halle Berry and his favorite food is catfish. What turned him on, he wrote, was a “beautiful personality.” He also wrote that he liked to wear “the briefs that are like boxers.”

Bowser was married to LaToyia Cook from June 29, 2002, until March 18, 2008 when he filed for divorce, according to court papers.

According to his Facebook page, he attended Texas A&M University for early-childhood education, Hawaii Pacific for Marketing and Texas Christian University for Criminology.

But police and media have also painted a dark portrait of the former teacher. According to the Dallas Morning News, Zina Bowser filed a protective order against Bowser in 2011 in which she described an incident that same year: Bowser allegedly threatened her and her sons when she suggested he move out of the home they were sharing.

The nurse practitioner, who penned a booklet in 2012 titled What the New Family Nurse Practitioner Needs to Know After Graduation, claimed that Bowser refused to give her anything in the split and told her that if she tried to take anything, “You are going to see what happens.”

When she asked what would happen, he allegedly approached her menacingly, bumped her with his stomach, and said, “I will bury you,” according to the paper.

He then allegedly grabbed a pocketknife and told her he would “execute your kids” if she called the police. The paper said she called the police anyway, and he was arrested.

In February of 2011, a judge granted Zina a protective order for one year, stating that the “court finds family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future.”

In court papers, Zina Bowser wrote that they had married on February 2, 2010, and split up nine months later. In her divorce petition, Zina wrote: “The marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.”

In the petition, she also accused Bowser of infidelity and “cruel treatment.