A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy testified Tuesday that he saw a sheriff’s sergeant lying on the ground outside a Lancaster apartment complex in 2016 as a court hearing began Tuesday for a parolee charged with murdering the veteran law enforcement officer.
Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli will determine if there is enough evidence to require Trenton Trevon Lovell, 28, of Lancaster, to stand trial on murder and other charges stemming from the Oct. 5, 2016, killing of Sgt. Steve Owen, 53, who was shot five times.
Deputy Benjamin Casebolt’s voice broke in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom as he recalled seeing the fallen sergeant — who was in his sheriff’s uniform — outside the apartment complex in the 3200 block of West Avenue J-6 on Oct. 5, 2016.
The officers were among those responding to a call of a possible burglary in progress nearby when Owen broadcasted over the police radio that he had the suspect at gunpoint, authorities have said.
“I first saw him lying on the ground. Then I saw him being carried,” Casebolt said, noting that Owen was rushed to the hospital in a sport utility vehicle.
The deputy said he subsequently interviewed the woman who said she made the 911 call when she discovered that a rear sliding glass door in her two-story home had been shattered; she went downstairs about 20 minutes after hearing a loud crashing noise that she initially thought was a trash truck. The woman — who said she had heard her doorbell ring before the loud sound — didn’t discover anything missing, Casebolt said.
After making the 911 call, the woman subsequently heard what she thought were gunshots and saw the deputy lying next to his patrol vehicle, then saw the car being backed up and crashing into a second patrol car and heard more gunfire before the person inside Owen’s patrol car fled, the deputy said.
Lovell allegedly ran from the scene, took a 19-year-old girl and her 17-year-old brother hostage at knifepoint in a nearby home for about an hour, after convincing them that he needed help after a robbery and shooting, according to authorities.
The young woman secretly texted her mother, who alerted sheriff’s deputies about Lovell’s location, and her brother locked the family’s barking dog in a room where guns were stored, authorities said. Lovell was ultimately arrested when he walked out of the back of the house, and was treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder, authorities said.
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 are expected to determine later whether to seek the death penalty against Lovell.
Along with murder, Lovell is charged with one count each of attempted murder involving a second sheriff’s deputy and possession of a firearm by a felon and 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 Lovell used a patrol car as a deadly and dangerous weapon against the second sheriff’s deputy.
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. He has been held without bail since his arrest.
Lovell allegedly admitted that Owen chased him and told him to freeze as Lovell approached the front door of the residence he was sharing with his sister, according to a report from the District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division following an investigation into the deputy-involved shooting of Lovell, who was struck once.
“Lovell stated he fired one round at Owen, striking him in the face. Lovell then `walked up and (he) finished the job.’ Lovell said that he `emptied the whole five shots’ from his revolver,” according to the report from the District Attorney’s Office, which found that Deputy Zachary Anderson had acted in self-defense and used lawful force in shooting Lovell once while trying to arrest him.
Owen 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 and worked as a sheriff’s Arson-Explosives detective.
His killing prompted an outpouring of support for his family and remembrances of Owen’s unwavering dedication to his job and commitment to the community. Law enforcement officers from as far away as New York and public officials including Gov. Jerry Brown attended his funeral service. A section of State Route 14 in the Antelope Valley was dedicated in his name on the one-year anniversary of his death.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said at the ceremony that the dedication “will serve as a continuous reminder of his selfless act, as well as a lesson to us all that we each have the ability to improve our community — much like Steve did every day.”