29-Year Veteran Sheriff's Sergeant Dies After Being Shot in Lancaster

Steve Owen was a 2014 Medal of Valor honoree

A 29-year veteran sergeant of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department died Wednesday after being shot by a burglar in Lancaster, the first time an on-duty member of the department was killed in more than a decade, authorities confirmed. 

"I think it goes without saying — this is a very dark day for the sheriff's department," Capt. Steve Katz said.

Sgt. Steve Owen, 53, died of his injuries, officials announced at a news conference.

His wife -- a detective --  and adult son and daughter had just made it to the hospital to say goodbye before Owen died of his injuries. 

Owen was a 2014 Medal of Valor honoree.

"It’s a very difficult time, as I’m sure you can imagine for many members of our department. We're all suffering," Katz said, his voice breaking.

The shooting occurred as deputies were responding to a burglary report in Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Owen was one of the first to respond.

Authorities heard gunfire over the scanner, thinking this was when Owen was attacked and shot.

The man who fired shots ran into the neighborhood in the 3000 block of West Avenue J in Lancaster, prompting a search. 

Aerial video showed what appeared to be at least six bullet holes in the windshield of a patrol car. The car also appeared to have damage to its passenger side door.

The shooter at one point tried to steal the deputy's cruiser, Katz said. As deputies began firing, the shooter rammed another patrol car. 

The shooter was able to get away, running into a house where teens were home.

As a special weapons team went inside the home, the shooter ran out. 

The shooter who fired the bullet that killed Owen was then taken into custody at 2 p.m., and a weapon was found at the shooting site. He was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the torso, and was receiving treatment.

The search was near Antelope Valley College's Lancaster campus. The school issued an alert to shelter in place and avoid the area due to the search.

Several nearby elementary and high schools were placed on lockdown.

Following the shooting, the sheriff's department released a statement.

"The tragedy of a deputy sheriff such as Sergeant Steve Owen making the ultimate sacrifice has a massive impact on the whole law enforcement family. We all mourn together and our hearts go out especially to Steve's immediate family Tania, a detective at Arson/Explosives Detail, his two adult sons Brandon and Chad, a step-daughter Shannon and his mother Millie," Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.

The Mayor of Los Angeles also commented on Owen's death. 

"A courageous and decorated hero risked his life for the last time today. Steve Owen, a 29-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, was killed while responding to a plea for help -- a plea like so many others in the course of a deputy's or an officer's day. My heart is heavy for Sgt. Owen's wife and children, for law enforcement officers everywhere, and for their families, who contend every day with the fear of losing loved ones who live to protect and serve our communities," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

A procession of law enforement vehicles with emergency lights flashing and sirens wailing escorted a coroner's van with Owen's body from the hospital in Lancaster to the coroner's office in Boyle Heights. LAPD officers and sheriff's deputies lined the streets, saluting the fallen sergeant.

"I knew him since I first got here, 2008," said California Highway Patrol officer Gil Hernandez. "We were friends. Everywhere we went, we talked, joked around. A tragedy that we lost such a great man."

Hundreds also gathered for a vigil Wednesday night at the Lancaster Sheriff's Station.

"He was very approchable," Wanda Brison said. "He will be missed."

The sheriff's department previously indicated two deputies were injured in the shooting. A separate shooting involving a deputy occurred nearby at about the same time, but the department said the deputy in the second shooting was not injured. 

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