|“||You think you got it rough? These people have done nothing but undermine me since I got here.||”|
At the age of eighteen, Phillip joined the U.S. Army, possibly as a medic or a sharpshooter, attending Ranger School and serving for six years before being dishonorably discharged in 1995 for conduct unbecoming. After his discharge, Phillip joined the Arlington Police Department but was fired after nine months for lying about his army discharge. Eventually, Phillip began working as an ER nurse, getting a job in Des Plaines, Illinois, occasionally picking up shifts in other hospitals in the area as well. In 2005, Phillip, using his military training, started non-lethally sniping random people so that he could save them later, his first victim being a man named Henry Sachs, who was shot in a mall parking lot, who unintentionally bled out and died due to the paramedics being unable to get to the scene in time. Unfazed by the man's death, Phillip shot two young men in a community center parking lot nine days later, then three park goers four days after that, the park shooting being the one which prompted the local police into calling in the BAU.
Two days after the attack at the park, Phillip shoots another three people, a couple and a waiter at a diner. Later, when the BAU and local police are in the midst of recreating the park shooting, Phillip observes from his van, shooting Officer Scott McCarty in the head when he is arrested under suspicion of being the unsub (in reality, McCarty had only leaked information to the media). Phillip is eventually tracked down to a hospital, where he briefly speaks to Hotch and Reid, who are asking to see a doctor, who is a suspect in the case.
Thinking the authorities are on to him, Phillip at first tries to escape the hospital but realizes it is impossible due to the police swarming the building. Going to his locker, Phillip grabs his rifle and returns to the lobby, rifle butting Reid, shooting out the power and disarming the guard and Hotch. Realizing Phillip intends to commit suicide by cop and dozens of people could be killed in the crossfire, Hotch begins gaining his trust, giving him advice on what to do and pretending to hate Reid. Convincing Phillip to let him beat Reid. Hotch begins kicking him, allowing Reid to grab the gun in his ankle holster, with Phillip realizing too late that Hotch had another gun. Just as he raises his rifle, Phillip is shot in the head by Reid, killing him instantly. Later on, Reid states that he was aiming for his leg.
Years later, he was prominently mentioned by Reid and Morgan in the episode Burn, where it is revealed by the former that he had been traumatized by his killing of Phillip. It was up to a point where he even looked up photos of Phillip during his time as a Ranger, studied the cases he investigated as a police officer and went through the files of patients he treated as a nurse. All of this had been an attempt by him to see why their paths crossed and if there was a chance that he could have been stopped before the shootings occurred. Reid then mentions that he finally moved on from the shooting by remembering all of his victims.
"Better be a head shot. I got this [rifle] on full-auto. Anything less, I go down squeezin' the trigger."
The unsub is a 30-to 40-year-old male veteran who drives a car large enough to shoot from, but also small enough to not be noticed, probably a sedan, which is customized to conceal the shooter, his weapon, and the sound of his shot. The unsub suffers from both narcissistic and paranoid personality disorders. He works out obsessively, never goes without a weapon, is completely self-centered, and cannot empathize with others. Incapable of admitting fault, he blames this shortcoming on those around him. Furthermore, he has no friends and his career history has been marked by frequent job changes. He is drawn to high-stakes jobs due to a need to prove his superiority to a world he perceives has undervalued him. The shootings are the ultimate expression of that need. He changes jurisdictions intentionally and strikes during the first and second shift changes, indicating an intimate knowledge of law enforcement, meaning that he is or used to be a police officer or was a military veteran.
Later in the investigation, it was realized the center of the unsub's shootings is the local hospitals, so he likely works at one of them. He suffers from Hero Syndrome, and as a result, he shoots his victims so he can save them later. He covets the power of life and death and seeks the power of God. Police officers and ER nurses have the exact same shift schedule, meaning the unsub wasn't shooting in-between shifts because there are fewer cops on the street, but because he works on the second-day shift, allowing him to have direct contact with the victims.
It should be noted that Dowd was not officially a serial killer at all, as he only killed two people, though he is referred to as a long distance serial killer by the team.
Phillip committed his shooting with an M4 assault rifle, which requires skill to snipe with, and used .223-caliber rounds, which fragment on impact. The shootings were committed in broad daylight between 2:55 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. (the first and second shift changes at the hospital he worked at) in public places, which Phillip visited the night before to find the perfect elevated position to fire from, one which would have a wide field of fire and access to something (such as a flag) that would allow Phillip to be able to judge wind resistance and speed. The shots were fired from the back of Phillip's van, which had a retractable licenses plate; firing from a vehicle allotted cover and a quick getaway.
While Phillip was a skilled sniper, he only inflicted normally non-fatal shots to the stomach, so he could be able to help his victims later in his job as an ER nurse. In the case of his first victim, Henry Sachs, he bled out from his gunshot wound since the medics weren't on time in the emergency response. Until the diner shooting, the number of victims he shot would increase by one. When he killed Officer Scott McCarty, he shot him once in the head with the intention of killing him.
Dowd is similar to Swedish killer sniper John Ausonius, a.k.a. "The Laser Man". Both were budding serial killers and snipers who joined their nation's armies, shot their victims with rifles (although Ausonius later shot his victims with a revolver), non-fatally shot most of them (though in Dowd's case, that was intentional), and intentionally killed at least one victim.
Dowd's tendency to shoot his victims from the cover of his own vehicle also seems to be taken from real-life snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who did the same thing.
Being a nurse with Hero Syndrome, Dowd can also be considered to be similar to Richard Angelo (who is mentioned in the episode) and Genene Jones, who both endangered patients and saved them as a way to gain respect from their own workmates.
- October 17: Henry Sachs (shot in a shopping mall parking lot; unintentionally bled out and died from his gunshot wound)
- October 26: Two injured at the community center parking lot shooting:
- Doug Miller
- Kevin Parks
- October 30: Three injured at the first Franklin Public Park shooting. They are:
- Jerry Middleton (nearly paralyzed by the bullet that hit him)
- Tim Reilly
- Kate Murray
- November 1: Three injured at the diner shooting. They are:
- An unnamed couple
- An unnamed waiter
- November 2:
- Officer Scott McCarty (fatally shot in the head at Franklin Public Park)
- Held the following hostage at the local hospital and intended to get them killed in the crossfire of a shootout between him and police:
- Note: Hotch states that Phillip shot eleven people (excluding Officer McCarty), but L.D.S.K. clearly shows nine people being shot by him instead.