Clark County sheriff’s deputy fired after violations found in son’s death last year

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An Internal Affairs Investigation of the 2010 shooting death of the 3-year-old son of Clark County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ed Owens has resulted in the termination of the officer.

Owens, a Battle Ground resident, was terminated Nov. 29 after he was found to have violated a number of policies in connection with the shooting.

Mike Evans, chief criminal deputy at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, said the decision was made to fire Owens Nov. 27 after he and Sheriff Garry Lucas discussed the issue. Owens was notified of his termination in a meeting where he was joined by his attorney, Lucas and a human resources representative.

"It all came down to truthfulness," Evans said of their main reason for terminating Owens. "There were many stories interwoven and it’s really difficult to separate out each individual occurrence. It comes down to the aspect of truthfulness."

According to reports released by the Vancouver Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Unit, Owens’ 3-year-old son, Ryan, shot himself Sept. 14, 2010, at the family’s home in Battle Ground. The weapon in the incident was the elder Owens’ Kel-Tec pistol.

A criminal investigation was conducted on Owens and his wife, Kristie, by the Vancouver Police Department. Part of that investigation included an inquiry into whether or not Owens and his wife had tried to blame Kristie Owens’ 11-year-old daughter for the death of their 3-year-old son. According to the police reports, the couple allegedly coerced a false confession from the 11-year-old.

No criminal charges were filed against the Owenses for this alleged occurrence.

According to the report from the internal affairs unit, it was found that Owens violated Clark County policies on proper firearms storage, off-duty conduct, ethics, competency and employee responsibilities.

According to official reports, Owens’ 11-year-old step-daughter was watching 3-year-old Ryan while the Owenses were in the garage studying. The girl told investigators she was lying on the bed with the boy in the master bedroom when she fell asleep. According to reports, the girl was awakened by a loud "pop" and the Owenses discovered Ryan had wandered into the closet, opened the gun safe and picked up the loaded Kel-Tec pistol.

Ryan was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head, but died several hours later. Detectives later determined the shooting was accidental and was most likely the result of a malfunctioning safe that didn’t always lock when it should unless the handle was "jiggled." According to the police reports, the Owenses knew about the problem with the safe.

According to the internal affairs report, investigators were led to believe that Owens and his wife blamed the 11-year-old daughter for the death of Ryan, telling detectives that she opened the gun safe for the boy while she was watching him. Police determined there is no evidence of those claims.

According to the report, the Owenses picked up the 11-year-old girl on Oct. 27, 2010 from her great-grandmother’s home in order to drive her to the Portland International Airport so she could fly down to California to live with her real father.

The report concludes that the Owenses pre-planned to interrogate the girl before taking her to the airport. The report states that they stopped the car near the airport and demanded the girl confess that what happened the night of the shooting was her fault.

The Owenses taped the confession and gave a copy to investigators. According to the internal affairs report, investigators said they could tell the video had been edited.

Because the alleged interrogation all took place in Multnomah County, OR, prosecutors in Multnomah County would be in charge of any formal charges brought against the Owenses for the allegations. Prosecutors in Multnomah County said they had insufficient evidence to prove five possible charges against Owens and his wife.

Owens worked for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office for seven years and has been on paid administrative leave since December 2010. His recent termination is effective immediately.

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