LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant was the victim of “a calculated execution” by a parolee with a long history of arrests who pumped bullets into his body as he lay wounded, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said Thursday.
Sgt. Steven Owen, 53, was shot Sunday as he responded to a report of a burglary in progress at an apartment building in Lancaster.
Owen went behind the building, where the gunman shot him with a stolen gun then stood over his body and fired four more times, McDonnell said at a news conference.
“He then unsuccessfully searched the body for the sergeant’s weapon, with the intent to use it to murder the first responding deputy,” the sheriff said.
Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, of Lancaster was arrested in the killing.
Authorities said he pointed a gun at the next responding deputy and was shot in the shoulder before stealing Owens’ patrol car, backing up and ramming another patrol car with it.
He then ran into a house where two teenagers were cowering before SWAT team members rescued them and forced Lovell to run out the back, McDonnell said.
Lovell was treated for his wound and remained jailed without bail. It was not clear if he has an attorney.
McDonnell was asked whether the sergeant, a 29-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, may have tried to avoid shooting the suspect, possibly deciding not to use his own gun.
“There was only the two of them there initially, so I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to answer what happened in that split-second,” McDonnell said. However, he said the killer may have been able to draw a gun surreptitiously while the sergeant had his own gun out and was requesting backup.
“This was a calculated execution,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell rejected any suggestion that Lovell, who is black, may have shot in self-defense - a question apparently prompted by controversy over recent shootings of young black men in police confrontations.
“This is an individual that was certainly the aggressor, somebody who is truly a predator, and not somebody who was defending himself in any manner,” McDonnell said.
Lovell has been arrested a dozen times, including one on suspicion of selling marijuana when he was a juvenile. He has also served two state prison sentences, McDonnell said.
Lovell was on parole following a 2009 conviction and six-year prison sentence for robbing a USC community safety officer at gunpoint, the Los Angeles Times reported. McDonnell said he had been classified as a “moderate risk.”
Lovell had been staying with his sister in the apartment complex where the burglary was reported and neighbors said he had a hot temper, the Times reported.
On Thursday at the apartment where Lovell had been staying, a woman who identified herself as his mother told the Times that the shooting had devastated her family and she was praying for the sergeant’s family.
“He’s still my son, and I love him regardless,” she added.
The news conference was held as Owen’s body was escorted from a morgue in Los Angeles back to Lancaster, where hundreds of people stood on an overpass draped with U.S. flags to watch as the hearse passed.
At the news conference, the sheriff said Owen was a model peace officer who was well-liked by local residents who had met him.
“They are saying that on their worst day, he helped them believe that tomorrow would be a better one,” McDonnell said.
In 2014, Owen was one of several deputies from the Lancaster station who received Sheriff’s Department medals for meritorious conduct after they captured a gunman in a bulletproof vest who had taken a driver hostage and used him as a human shield after a police chase.