Crime & Justice

LA County sheriff's sergeant shot, killed; suspect arrested

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Steve Owen, who was shot and killed on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Steve Owen, who was shot and killed on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.
NBC L.A.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Steve Owen, who was shot and killed on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016.
This still frame from video provided by KTTV-TV shows a man with his hands up in the backyard of a home, after first looking over the gate behind him and seeing law enforcement vehicles, as authorities search for a gunman who shot and killed Los Angeles County Sheriff Sgt. Steve Owen, in Lancaster, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016. The sergeant was shot and killed while answering a burglary report and the suspected gunman was arrested after ramming the sergeant's stolen patrol car into another patrol car and fleeing to a nearby home, authorities said.
KTTV-TV via AP


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A Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon while responding to a home burglary call near Antelope Valley College in Lancaster. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Steve Owen, 53, died shortly after the incident, Executive Officer Neal Tyler said at a press conference.

The suspect in the shooting — an armed burglar — was arrested after a chase.

"This has been a very dark day for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department," Capt. Steven Katz said. "We're all suffering right now. His family certainly is suffering, his law enforcement family is suffering. It doesn't get worse than this, folks."

A Los Angeles County deputy was show near the 3200 block of West Avenue J7 in Lancaster.
A Los Angeles County deputy was show near the 3200 block of West Avenue J7 in Lancaster.
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What happened

The incident took place near the 3200 block of West Avenue J7 near Antelope Valley College shortly after noon. Owen responded to the burglary call, Katz said, along with a deputy sheriff.

Owen was shot immediately after he arrived at the location, officials said. The suspect fled and tried to commandeer Owen's cruiser,  putting the car in reverse and ramming it into another deputy's car. That is when the other deputy at the scene shot the suspect in the upper torso.

The suspect fled on foot and hid in at least one house, where it is believed that he took hostages, Katz said. Two teenagers — one male and one female — were hiding in the house and texted police, telling them that the suspect was there.

Authorities believed that the teens were in danger, Capt. Jack Ewell said at the press conference. The suspect fled, climbing a wall before he was taken into custody.

The deputy and sergeant were transported to a local hospital for treatment, as was the suspect.

Antelope Valley College tweeted that it had been placed on lockdown shortly after the shooting took place. That lockdown was later lifted.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies salute Antelope Valley Hospital's lowering of the U.S. flag to half-staff on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in memory of Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Owen, who died at the hospital after being shot earlier in the day by a suspected burglar.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies salute Antelope Valley Hospital's lowering of the U.S. flag to half-staff on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, in memory of Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Owen, who died at the hospital after being shot earlier in the day by a suspected burglar.
Courtesy NBC 4

Sgt. Owen's story

Owen was a 29-year veteran of the department, Tyler said, and a recipient of the medal of valor. He had been a sergeant at the Lancaster station for five years, where he worked first as a deputy before he was promoted to sergeant five years ago.

"Steve clearly is very much a hero. Not that he wasn't before this happened," Tyler said.

Officials were able to locate Owen's wife, a sheriff's arson explosives detective, and get her to the hospital before her husband succumbed to his injuries, Tyler said. His mother and his adult children — a son and daughter — were also there before he died.

McDonnell tweet

Owen received his medal for his response to a suspect who was holding a hostage, according to a Sheriff's Department newsletter. The suspect was wearing a bulletproof vest, pointing a gun at the victim's chest and head area, which made a clean shot impossible, according to the newsletter.

Owen requested assistance from the department's Special Enforcement Bureau, but realized he didn't have time to wait for them to respond, according to the newsletter. He directed a deputy to open a passenger window, and that deputy deployed his Taser and hit the suspect in the right arm, allowing the hostage to escape.

Owen saw the suspect clenching a handgun, according to the newsletter, fearing he continued to pose a threat. He directed another sergeant to use a Taser again, incapacitating the suspect and allowing another deputy to take the suspect's gun before subduing the suspect.

"Sgt. Owen was an outstanding law enforcement professional who I had the opportunity to know and work with," Supervisor Mike Antonovich said in a statement. "He was senselessly murdered while responding to a call for help. His loss leaves a significant void for all those who knew him."

Video: Suspect appears to surrender

The suspect, who has not yet been named, had prior convictions. A weapon was recovered, Katz said. Deputies don't believe there are any other suspects.

Tyler said that he called Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who had been attending a conference on human trafficking. McDonnell had planned to spend several more days on vacation, but upon hearing of the incident, McDonnell said that he would catch the first plane back, so he is expected back either Wednesday or Thursday.

The last time a Los Angeles sheriff's deputy was killed on duty was in 2005, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the officer injured Wednesday. KPCC regrets the error. We also reported that two officers had been shot based on information from sheriff's officials. Sheriff's officials later clarified that only the sergeant had been hit by a bullet, though two officers were injured.