Charges won’t be brought against members of a West Virginia task force who fatally shot a pallbearer at his father’s funeral after an investigation found the fugitive was reaching for a concealed weapon, a special prosecutor said Tuesday.
Grant County Prosecutor John Ours said in a telephone interview that he reviewed the State Police investigation into the shooting of Jason Arnie Owens and determined that “it was justified.” He found no probable cause to charge the officers.
The shooting happened as mourners gathered outside the funeral home in the Harrison County community of Nutter Fort on Aug. 24, 2022. Owens had helped to carry his father’s casket to a hearse, and then turned to embrace a relative, according to witnesses previously interviewed by The Associated Press.
Two officers with a fugitive warrant then sought to arrest Owens on a parole violation, calling his name and shooting him dead. Owens’ blood spattered his 18-year-old son’s shirt with blood as horrified loved ones looked on.
The State Police investigation determined Owens had a holster with a 9mm pistol under his shirt, refuting previous witness statements that Owens was unarmed. The two officers said Owens reached for his weapon, although some witnesses said otherwise, the report noted.
“The involved officers acted appropriately and were involved in no wrongdoing or criminal actions,” State Police Sgt. C.D. Whetzel, the lead investigator, said in the report.
Whetzel said he attended Owens’ autopsy at the state medical examiner’s office and observed the brown leather holster still fastened to Owens’ belt on his right side. There also were 9mm bullets in his pockets. Owens, 37, had several illegal drugs in his system, including methamphetamine, fentanyl and norfentanyl, and a bag containing methamphetamine was removed from his pocket, according to the report.
Bridgeport Police Detective Cameron Golden, who was a member of a local drug and violent crimes task force, said the owner of the funeral home confirmed that Owens had been inside the facility at his father’s service.
Owens helped set the casket into the hearse and moved away when Golden said he and Harrison County Sheriff’s Sgt. Corey Heater announced themselves as police and told Owens not to move. (Source AP)