Minn. deputy who was shot, killed during domestic call died on his 44th birthday

"I'm numb at this moment. Josh came into this world April 15, 1979 and on this day was taken from us," his father wrote

Duty Death: Josh Owen - [Pope County, Minnesota]

End of Service: 04/15/2023

By Mike Hughlett
Star Tribune

GLENWOOD, Minn. — A western Minnesota sheriff's deputy was shot and killed and two other law enforcement officers were injured while responding to a domestic dispute call Saturday night, while the suspected shooter is dead.

One officer from the Starbuck Police Department and two deputies from the Pope County Sheriff's Office were struck by gunfire about 7:30 p.m. Saturday while answering a domestic call at a Cyrus apartment building in the 421 N. Stromen Street, the Sheriff's Office reported.

As the officers attempted to arrest a man involved, he shot at them, striking all three before they returned fire and killed him. Deputy Joshua Owen was taken to the hospital and later died, according to the Sheriff's Office. The other deputy was treated for injuries and released. The Starbuck officer was injured but not hospitalized.

Records show Owen was killed on his 44th birthday. A military veteran, he leaves behind a wife and son. He had been with the sheriff's office for 12 years.

"I'm numb at this moment. Josh came into this world April 15 1979, And on this day was taken from us," his father, Dan Owen, wrote on Facebook. "Rest easy my son."

The other officers and suspect will be identified by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating the shooting.

Owen's squad was parked in front of the Pope County Courthouse in Glenwood Sunday. Cindy Owen, no relation to deputy Owen, laid a bouquet of flowers, adding to a few others that graced the scene.

"It's very heartbreaking," Owen said. "I respect police officers immensely. My son is a police officer. It just shakes you to your core when something like this happens. Hopefully, it will bring some kind of peace to his family knowing that he gave his life to help others."

In a news conference Sunday afternoon, Pope County Sheriff Tim Riley paused repeatedly to hold back tears as he addressed gathered media.

"Yesterday, April 15, Pope County law enforcement lost a brother. Our sympathies and love are with Deputy Josh Owen's family and families of the other deputies and officers involved," Riley said, expressing gratitude to assisting first responders. "Deputy Owen had a heart as big as his stature...he loved his family, his brotherhood and his community."

Scott Mueller, deputy superintendent of investigations for the BCA, gave few details Sunday, saying "the investigation is in the very early stages."

All three officers responded to a domestic assault call at an apartment complex in Cyrus. They entered the home and told a man there that he was under arrest.

"When they got there, they went into the home and after some initial investigation they informed a man at the home that he was under arrest for domestic assault," Mueller said. "The man drew a firearm and immediately began shooting at officers. In the ensuing exchange of gunfire, the man and all three officers were struck."

Lifesaving efforts were given to both Owen and the domestic violence suspect, and the latter was pronounced dead at the scene. Owen was taken to Glacial Ridge Hospital in Glenwood where he later died. A handgun and numerous cartridge casings were found next to the suspect's body.

Mueller said that he did not know whether the apartment where the shooting occurred was the subject of previous police calls, but that the suspect involved had been in the state for less than a year.

All officers were wearing body cameras which were activated, and the footage will eventually be released.

Mueller said seven police officers in the line of duty in Minnesota have been shot this year. "This is an alarming trend that needs to stop now."

According to emergency dispatch audio, a shots fired report was received with someone on the radio saying "I'm going to see if I can get ahold of them." While attempting to determine an exact address, a neighbor called 911 to tell them the shots were coming from the Stromen Street apartment.

Squads sped to the address in Cyrus, where CPR was started.

"One officer down, two others shot, neither of them are injured," came the call.

"Officers hit, one is code 4 for now," the dispatch continued, meaning the officer is OK, "And the other is being worked on."

Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Brian Peters said in a statement that Owens' killing "will have a disturbing impact on recruitment, retention, and the mental health and well-being of law enforcement and other emergency first responders."

"This killing is a senseless act of violence and hate towards police officers who put everything on the line to serve and protect our communities," Peters said. "It shows the dangers of the job that police do every day, and how what could be considered a 'normal' day could turn into their last day."

Last month, the Pope County Sheriff's Office honored Owen with the Distinguished Service Award for helping to resuscitate a man who had been pulled from a house fire, according to a department Facebook post.

Cyrus, with a population of 320, is about 140 miles northwest of the Twin Cities and roughly 80 miles west of St. Cloud. It's about 20 miles west of Glenwood, the county seat.

Matthew Cooley, a manager at Tom's Market in Glenwood, said he "shed tears" after finding out Owen had died.

"I know Deputy Owen and I have seen him respond to calls. He would calm people. He was not a provocative person."

Dominated by agriculture, Pope County is sparsely populated. Still, Cooley said small towns and counties are not immune to gun violence – the problem is everywhere. "You can almost expect it, and that's a sad statement," he said.

Kelly Mahoney, who was having lunch Sunday with Cooley at a Glenwood restaurant, agreed.

"There is a lot going on in small towns that we don't know," said Mahoney, a pastor at Hope Community Church in Glenwood, where prayers were said this morning for the three officers and the family affected by the domestic violence incident.

Mahoney said he is friends with area police officers. "They will tell you that the most dangerous situation is a domestic because there is so much passion involved."

State Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said the community was in shock following the shooting after news traveled quickly Saturday night.

"Things like this don't happen in small towns," he said. "We are really close knit here."

The shooting came one week after two western Wisconsin police officers were killed during a traffic stop. Officers Emily Breidenbach, 32, of the Chetek Police Department, and Hunter Scheel, 23, of the Cameron Police Department, both died Saturday during a traffic stop at about 3:30 p.m. April 8 in Cameron. Both officers were pronounced dead at the scene about 50 miles north of Eau Claire, and the suspected shooter, Glenn Douglas Perry, 50, was taken to a nearby hospital and died there, the Wisconsin Department of Justice said.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service


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