LANCASTER – A parolee accused of shooting a Lancaster sheriff’s sergeant responding to a burglary call, then pumping four additional shots into the veteran lawman once he was down, pleaded not guilty to a murder charge Monday.
Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, of Lancaster, is charged in the Oct. 5 killing of Sgt. Steve Owen. Lovell, who is being held without bail, is due back in court Feb. 15 for a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
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.
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 said Lovell 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 previously 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 suspect continued to try to escape and attempted to climb over a wall, but he was confronted by deputies and taken into custody. 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.
Owens was a 29-year department veteran who had worked in the Antelope Valley for years and was well known for his community involvement, especially with area youths. He was promoted to sergeant five years earlier.
His killing prompted an outpouring of support for his family and remembrances of Owens’ unwavering dedication to his job. Law enforcement officers from as far away as New York and public officials including Gov. Jerry Brown attended his funeral service.
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.
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