Procession held Monday for fallen Pope County deputy; memorial service set for Saturday

Law enforcement officers on high alert

Law enforcement officers on high alert

An emotional procession was held early Monday morning in honor of a Pope County deputy who was killed in the line of duty over the weekend.

Shortly after 8:30 a.m., a long line of law enforcement vehicles could be seen in procession leaving the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, Minnesota to escort the body of Deputy Josh Owen back to Pope County.

RELATED: Slain Pope County deputy identified; another deputy and officer injured by gunfire Saturday night

RELATED: 3 law enforcement officers shot while responding to domestic call in western Minnesota

A flag was flown in honor of Deputy Owen, and community members also came to show support.

Remembering Pope Co. Deputy Josh Owen

Remembering Pope Co. Deputy Josh Owen

Owens served with the Pope County Sheriff’s Office for more than a decade. He, as well as two other law enforcement officers, were called to a domestic call at a Cyrus apartment around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

During the attempt to make an arrest, the man inside the home pulled out a gun and fired at officers. They then fired back, killing him.

An officer from Starbuck, as well as another deputy from Pope County, are recovering from injuries.

A memorial service for Deputy Owen will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the gymnasium of Minnewaska Area High School in Glenwood. A visitation will be held at the gymnasium from 4-8 p.m. Friday and in the hour before Saturday’s memorial.

On Monday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with the Minnesota National Guard, who said Owen served in the Guard from Feb. 10, 1997, to Feb. 9, 2008. He joined as an infantryman and later changed his occupational specialty to M1 armor crewman, according to the Minnesota National Guard. He also served in Bosnia from Aug. 31, 2003, to Feb. 17, 2004. He then was deployed to Iraq from Oct. 1, 2005, to Aug. 22, 2007, where he received the Army Commendation Medal.

“The Minnesota National Guard sends its deepest sympathies to Deputy Owen’s family. Although Josh left the Guard more than a decade ago, he is still part of our Guard family, and many of the Soldiers who served with him grieve his loss. The care that he displayed for his team and his equipment is a testament to the leader he was during his service to our state and nation,” said Army Maj. Gen. Shawn Manke, the Adjutant General for the Minnesota National Guard.

After learning there was a shooting Saturday night, Scott Kowski messaged Owen, his longtime friend.

“I sent him a text and said, ‘Please tell me you are not working tonight,'” Kowski said.

“As time went on, my heart started to sink,” he added.

Kowski later learned that his buddy from the National Guard had been fatally shot.

“He had one of the biggest smiles, no matter the situation, he’d always have a smile on his face,” Kowski recalled.

“It was an honor to serve with him. I would go back to war with him any day, he was absolutely amazing,” Army Lt. Col. Jon Anderson, who was Owen’s platoon leader in Iraq, added.

Since their deployment, Anderson says they maintained their friendship upon returning home to Minnesota.

“It’s extremely tough to realize that I don’t have a future to sit around a campfire with Josh and reminisce, and have a couple of beers, laugh about the good days and cry about the hard times,” Anderson said.

Friends say Owen’s dedication to his family and community will never be forgotten.

“It’s hard to put into words, the dedication he had to the service to his country, to his community, to his family, he was really just a good guy,” Kowski said.

“Your heart just goes out for [them],” Jim Mortenson, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services (LELS), said about Owen’s wife and child. “Her whole world has been tipped upside down, you know, for her child – and it’s a difficult conversation,” he added.

LELS is Minnesota’s largest public safety labor union – Mortenson is helping Owen’s family through this process.

He also has an understanding of how police departments and sheriff’s offices are communicating with the rank and file following this rash of violence against law enforcement.

RELATED: Assaults on Minnesota law enforcement officers up over 140% in 2 years

“We’ve had seven officers shot in just a matter of a short period of time, just in the state of Minnesota,” Mortenson said, adding: “They’re telling their officers to keep their head on a swivel. Make sure you have backup on calls for service if you’re able to.”

Those conversations also include sharing resources for mental health services, Mortenson says.

“They’re trying to keep those that are still working in the profession, to keep them in a place that they feel good coming to work, [that] they want to come to work,” Mortenson said. “And, when they do get into dangerous situations, [they’re] able to recover and get back on the job.”

Mortenson says support from outside organizations helps as well – he says Heroes Helping Heroes (H3) does great work with addressing law enforcement mental health.

H3 tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they’re a “peer-to-peer” support group with a big focus on addressing post-traumatic stress disorder. First responders – both active and retired – can reach out to them directly.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has yet to release body camera footage, as well as the identities of the officers and suspect. However, ABC affiliate WDAY has identified the other deputy as Brody Merrill, Owen’s partner.

Additional details about the shooting are expected to be released in the coming days. Aerial footage of the procession can be found in the video player below.

Official information for those wishing to donate to Owen’s family was also released Monday. Donations can be made:

  • Online through the LELS Benevolent Fund. The fund is also accepting donations by mail made out to the Josh Owen Memorial at 2700 Freeway Boulevard, Suite 700, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430.
  • Online through the MN Fraternal Order of Police.
  • At any Wells Fargo location using the account name “Funds for Heroes” with the MN Fraternal Order of Police.
  • The Josh Owen Memorial Fund at Glenwood State Bank or Eagle Bank.

Monday’s procession was the second such event to happen in one week. Last Monday, a procession was held as the bodies of Chetek Police Officer Emily Breidenbach and Camera Police Officer Hunter Scheel were returned to a funeral home in Barron, Wisconsin. Breidenbach and Scheel were shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire after a traffic stop on Saturday, April 8.

RELATED: Procession brings fallen Wisconsin officers back home

RELATED: 2 Barron County officers, suspect dead after exchange of gunfire at traffic stop

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