Tennessee judge orders a mental evaluation for a man charged with shooting at a Jewish school

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee judge has ordered a mental evaluation for a man charged with trying to enter a Jewish school with a gun and firing it at a contractor there before he was shot by police, his defense lawyer said Tuesday.

Judge Karen Massey issued an order for a psychological evaluation for Joel Bowman, who was released from a hospital Friday and was being held Tuesday in a medical ward at Shelby County Jail, said his lawyer, Mitch Wood.

Police said Bowman went on July 31 to Margolin Hebrew Academy-Feinstone Yeshiva of the South school in Memphis with a gun and tried to get inside, but he was denied entry. Class was not in session, but there were limited staff and construction workers there at the time.

In an affidavit, police said Bowman — who had attended the school — walked around its exterior and fired two shots at the contractor, who was not hit. Bowman, 33, then fired two more shots outside the school before driving away in a pickup truck, police said.

Officers tracked down Bowman a short drive from the school, in a residential neighborhood. Bowman exited his truck with a gun in his right hand and pointed the weapon at an officer, who shot him, police said. Bowman was hospitalized in critical condition.

Bowman was charged with attempted second-degree murder, carrying a weapon on school property and other alleged offenses. He has pleaded not guilty.

Forensic specialists will determine whether Bowman is competent to stand trial and whether he was insane at the time of the alleged offense, Wood said. The judge set a September hearing to address findings from the evaluation.

A possible motive for the attempt to enter the school has not been disclosed. Security officials for the Jewish community declined to discuss what specific safety measures were in use at the school. But those officials did say that information from video cameras, a close relationship with police and years of work to bolster safety measures kept the man out of the school and helped officers find him.

Wood said Bowman was doing “quite well,” considering he was shot in the chest.

“Health wise, it looks like he'll make as close to a full recovery as anybody can,” Wood said.

Bowman’s confrontation with police came 20 years after his father was fatally shot by officers while holding a gun during a mental health episode at the family home. Friends said Bowman was traumatized by his father's killing.