Erbie Lee Bowser taught special education students and started a nonprofit that would provide clothing, tutoring and food for children. He entertained Dallas Mavericks' fans with a goofy dance troupe. Friends and family members described him as a "gentle giant."
But the North Texas man with an imposing 6-foot-7, 335-pound figure had a violent history, as court documents showed he'd threatened to kill his estranged wife and her sons.
Bowser, 44, has been charged in this week's Dallas-area shootings that killed four people and wounded four others. He was being held Friday on a combined $3 million in bonds, and has at times refused to talk with detectives.
Erbie and Zina Bowser had begun divorce proceedings in 2011, when court documents show Erbie Bowser made threats against Zina, telling her that if she tried to take any of their belongings, "I will bury you." Zina Bowser said he took a pocketknife from a drawer, opened it and said, "Call the police and I will execute your kids," documents show.
After that, a Dallas judge granted a protective order, banning Erbie Bowser from coming within 200 yards of his estranged wife and her children. The judge wrote in his report: "Family violence has occurred and is likely to occur in the future."
Bowser is now charged with four counts of capital murder -- two in Dallas and two in DeSoto -- as well as two counts of aggravated assault in Dallas.
Bowser's aunt, Billie Fulmer, told the Dallas Morning News, "It's not like Erbie to do this."
"Something pushed him over the edge and I don't know what it was," Fulmer told the newspaper. "He must have snapped."
About 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, police received a call from a Dallas residence. There, they found two women who were fatally shot --Bowser's girlfriend Toya Smith, 43, and her 17-year-old daughter Tasmia Allen -- as well as two wounded boys, Smith's 14-year-old son and 17-year-old family friend Dasmine Mitchell.
Mitchell identified Bowser as the lone shooter from a lineup of suspect photos, according to an arrest affidavit released Friday.
Police say not long after the first shooting, Bowser traveled to the Dallas suburb of DeSoto and shot and killed Zina Bowser, 47, and her daughter, 28-year-old Neima Williams. Two boys, ages 11 and 13, were wounded.
DeSoto police spokesman Ron Smith said Friday they don't plan on releasing any new information at this time.
Bowser's lawyer didn't immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.
DeSoto police say more state charges are expected to filed against Bowser as early as next week.
He could face federal charges, as well, in connection with an explosive device that was used at the DeSoto home before the shooting. It is not clear what type of device was used, and it could take up to two weeks for a determination.
The two youngest victims in DeSoto attend Ruby Young Elementary and DeSoto West Middle School. They are in stable condition, police say.
A neighbor, Swahn Gibson, said he has known the family for more than 10 years. He said he recently visited the boys at the hospital, where there are fears the 13-year-old could lose the use of his legs.
Both boys are ambitious and enjoy sports, Gibson said.
Bowser, who'd played in three football games at Texas Christian University in the late 1980s, served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army from October 1991 to November 2000, but never deployed overseas.
He worked for nearly a decade as a special education teacher in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite. School district spokeswoman Laura Jobe said Thursday he resigned in 2010 "on good terms." He was also a football coach at West Mesquite High School for a couple seasons, she said.
Public records show Bowser had started a nonprofit organization in 2010 aimed to help children, but it has been inactive since shortly after he registered it with the state. He also had performed from 2002 to 2009 with the Dallas Mavericks' Dallas Mavs ManiAACs, a men's dance troupe.
"From what I understand, he was a very likable guy," Jobe told the Dallas Morning News. "He was described to me as a gentle giant; never anything violent about him. In fact, just the opposite."
NBC DFW's Eric King contributed to this report.