WATCH: Surveillance Video Proves Fired Ford Employee Acted in Self-Defense

A former employee for Ford Motor Company has been exonerated for shooting a fellow union member in a self-defense incident in 2016, but he’s still fighting to return to work, receive back pay, and clear his name.

Fifty-two-year-old Billy Cowart was charged with attempted murder after he discharged his firearm in the United Auto Workers 551 parking lot located on the south side of Chicago. He struck two fellow union members in the leg, but he claimed he acted in self-defense.

The auto company and the union didn’t believe him. Cowart has combat training with the U.S. armed forces and was a licensed CCW holder at the time of the incident. He’d also worked at Ford’s Chicago Assembly plant for nearly 20 years. None of that mattered, and Cowart was quickly suspended and then fired.

“The union here basically said, ‘You got what you deserved. Deal with it,’” Cowart told local media. “I was crucified before the trial. I was the villain. I was the mad employee.”

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A headline at the time of the incident read, “Man faces eight attempted murder charges in UAW shooting” and notes that Cowart shot two men who had recently been elected to union leadership.

Another report claimed Cowart “fled the scene” and quoted police as saying the shooting “followed an argument involving all three.”

Surveillance footage shown at Cowart’s trial tells a different story.

In the video, a man makes a beeline for Cowart and sucker punches him in the face. Cowart stumbles backwards and pulls out his handgun. He told local media that he shot towards the ground to stop the threat.

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“He retreated,” Cowart said. “I holstered my gun.”

After over two years in court, Cowart was found not guilty on all charges. A judge determined that the other man was clearly the aggressor and Cowart acted in self-defense.

“I was actually numb,” Cowart said. “You can say innocent until proven guilty, but it’s guilty until proven innocent.”

Now Cowart is trying to get his old job back and receive compensation for the pay he’s been missing over the last two years.

Local media reports that he sat through a 10-hour arbitration hearing at which Ford and the union “put up a serious fight.”

More important than the money, Cowart says, is his reputation.

“I’d like to get my name back, basically,” he said.

He’ll have to wait another 30 days for a decision on his arbitration case.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Mark Wynn January 1, 2021, 12:58 pm

    “Sucker punching” people seems to be the in-thing these days … resulting in traumatic brain injuries, and senior citizens ending up in nursing homes. If a gang of union thugs first sucker punched the guy, I believe it would be reasonable to assume more physical damage was on its way. Kicking victims in the head while their down is another unfortunate development.

  • Riggarob July 5, 2019, 5:48 am

    I wonder what happened to the guy that punched him. Why is that guy’s name never mentioned in any Court proceedings?

  • RON February 15, 2019, 1:44 pm


    • DocLoch February 15, 2019, 5:30 pm

      You forget any crime of male vs. female. Also often black vs. white, sadly, still.

  • alex February 15, 2019, 12:35 pm

    typical union response! i have dealt with unions for 30 years,most if not all are giant club houses,if your in the club,your protected,if your not your on your own! i will never,ever joint another union again.

  • Rson February 15, 2019, 11:26 am

    Just cancelled my ford purchase! Will buy elsewhere!

    • DocLoch February 15, 2019, 5:31 pm

      Buy American made! Buy a Toyota!

      • Mark Wynn January 1, 2021, 1:04 pm

        Nissan trucks … made in Smyrna Tennessee
        Some GM Cadillac models … made in China

    • Edward A Allen February 24, 2019, 9:41 am

      You can bet this was all on the unions side. Ford goes with what the union says because the union has too much power.

      My wife was accused of being aggressive and penalized by the union because she was trying to walk away from a screeching shrew.

      Since my wife was white and the shrew was middle eastern, it was obviously my wife’s fault.

  • Bad Penguin February 15, 2019, 9:24 am

    The man needs a public apology from both Ford and the Union. He also deserves all back pay and benefits and if they wont give him that then he needs 20 more years of pay and benefits and allow him to retire. Then start talking about serious go away and feel better money.

  • woodyulmer February 15, 2019, 8:58 am

    file suit against Ford for wrongful termination ( it did not happen on” Ford ” property), sue the “local” and UAW national for misrepresentation and slander and defamation of character.

  • Rahel February 13, 2019, 1:40 pm

    SUE, SUE, SUE and then SUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Auggie February 13, 2019, 12:13 pm

    I’m not sure I would want to go back to Ford after what happened but I do hope he gets justice with Ford and his Union!

  • James February 13, 2019, 10:55 am

    Unfortunately for him the union and Ford do not have the same inocent until proven guilty to hold to they are able to set their own standards. I hope he will prevail but it’is likely to be a long civil suit to get there. Prayers to him for the strength and ability to see it through.

  • Butch Byrd February 13, 2019, 10:36 am

    That is why you should NOT join a union !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jamie L Sorensen February 13, 2019, 10:05 am

    So true about guilty to proven innocent. You are a terrorist until one proves to tsa you aren’t.
    Two different legal systems. One for the rich or famous and one for the poor smucks like us.

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