BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – William Stowell, a candidate for Botetourt County sheriff, wants to carry the badge even though he can’t legally carry a gun.
He became a convicted felon after his third DUI offense. He pleaded guilty and spent three months in jail. He’s open about having been an alcoholic for years after leaving the military.
The 37-year-old former Air Force police officer, who’s lived in Botetourt County since 1994, is running as an independent and said he’s fit for the job.
He believes many felons like him are unfairly stigmatized.
“When you hear of a convicted felon, you think somebody’s a murderer or a rapist or an arsonist and that’s not the case. You could become a convicted felon for drag racing,” Stowell said.
He said he wouldn’t want to resort to using a gun anyway, but he is working to get his gun rights restored. He believes the fact that he can’t currently carry a gun legally wouldn't be a problem for him if he became sheriff.
“I’m not here to rely on having a firearm,” Stowell said.
10 News asked him about situations like the one deputies in the county faced in December, in which they pulled out their guns after chasing a murder suspect.
“You just have to deal with these situations as they unfold. I’m not going to back down from anyone at any time,” Stowell said.
A Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson told 10 News that the department would not hire a convicted felon, unless they had their rights restored.
But Stowell isn’t asking for the department's support. He’s asking the voters to side with him on issues like decriminalizing marijuana possession and supporting people when they leave jail.
“People just pigeonhole me as a felon. I probably couldn’t even get a job managing a Wendy’s now,” he said. “If you take somebody like me who’s well-educated and basically have my life together and I still have a hard time reentering society, imagine somebody who doesn’t have all the advantages I have,” he said.
Stowell has been an activist since he was a teenager. He now owns his own business and is a YouTube content creator, with videos that have been viewed thousands of times.
“My goal is to get in this office so I can be there for the people that don’t have money and power,” Stowell said.
He said he believes he can win. He’s spoken at candidate forums and said he will campaign more, including putting out signs, starting next week, after the Republican primary takes place.
Sheriff Ronnie Sprinkle is leaving the job after running the department for nearly 20 years. Three Republican candidates, all with law enforcement experience, will face each other in a primary Tuesday: Jeff Stritesky, Mike Vineyard and Matt Ward. Danny Crouse will join Stowell as an independent facing the Republican winner in the Nov. 5 election.