LANCASTER – A parolee accused of shooting a Lancaster sheriff’s sergeant who was responding to a burglary call and then firing four additional shots into the veteran lawman once he was down was charged Friday with capital murder.
Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, of Lancaster, appeared in court in connection with Wednesday’s execution-style killing of Sgt. Steve Owen, but his arraignment was postponed until Nov. 14.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer in the performance of his duties and murder for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest.
Prosecutors will determine later whether to seek the death penalty against Lovell, who is being held without bail.
Lovell is also charged with one count each of attempted murder involving another sheriff’s deputy and possession of a firearm by a felon, along with two counts each of first-degree residential robbery and false imprisonment by violence — the latter charge includes a knife use allegation.
The attempted murder charge includes an allegation that he used a patrol car as a deadly and dangerous weapon against a second sheriff’s employee who arrived at the scene.
The criminal complaint also alleges that Lovell was on parole at the time of the crime and that he had been convicted of robbery as a juvenile in 2006 and again as an adult in 2009, according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake.
Owen, 53, was shot to death as he responded to a young mother’s 911 call reporting a burglary at her apartment building in the 3200 block of West Avenue J-7.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell alleged Thursday that Lovell — whose name the sheriff refused to utter — shot Owen behind a residence after being confronted by the sergeant, who radioed that he had the suspect at gunpoint before he was shot.
“Sergeant Owen approached the suspect in response to a burglary call,” McDonnell said. “The suspect immediately shot Sergeant Owen. He then stood over and executed Sergeant Owen by firing four additional rounds into his body. He then unsuccessfully searched the body for the sergeant’s weapon with the intent to use it to murder the first responding deputy.”
The first responding deputy fired numerous times at Lovell, who had pointed his weapon at him, striking the suspect once in the shoulder, the sheriff said.
Lovell allegedly jumped into the sergeant’s patrol vehicle while a second deputy arrived at the scene, then rammed the deputy’s vehicle with Owen’s patrol car.
“Not only did the suspect want to kill our deputies, he held two teenagers hostage in a neighboring house until they were rescued by the heroic efforts of our Special Enforcement Bureau and our Lancaster Station personnel,” McDonnell said.
The two teens were held at knifepoint, according to prosecutors.
The gunman continued to try to escape and attempted to climb over a wall, but he was confronted by deputies and taken into custody, according to Deputy Juanita Navarro-Suarez, who added that a firearm was recovered at the scene.
Owen’s wife, who is a sheriff’s Arson-Explosives detective, made it to the hospital before her husband died, according to sheriff’s Executive Officer Neal Tyler. One of Owen’s adult sons and his stepdaughter, as well his mother, also were at his bedside, Tyler said.
Owens was a 29-year department veteran who had worked in the Antelope Valley for years and was known for his community involvement, especially with area youths. He was promoted to sergeant five years ago.
Owen received a Meritorious Conduct Medal in 2014, along with five of his Lancaster Station colleagues, for their roles in a pursuit and carjacking that ended with the capture of the armed suspect and the motorist’s rescue.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris announced Friday that he will ask the city council to rename Lancaster Community Park as Sergeant Steve Owen Community Park.
“He deserves to always be remembered by the residents of the city of Lancaster and the Antelope Valley,” the mayor said. “Renaming our community park after a true hero is one small step in that direction. Steve was killed in the line of duty protecting a community in which he was deeply embedded. Sergeant Steve Owen was one of the best-known deputies throughout the entire Antelope Valley region.”
Owen’s alleged killer has been arrested 11 times, first as a juvenile on suspicion of selling marijuana, and was jailed or imprisoned twice, according to the sheriff.
McDonnell said he believed the death penalty would be an appropriate sentence if Lovell is convicted of murdering Owen.
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