The tears of hundreds gathered atop freeway overpasses across the Santa Clarita Valley sparkled in a sea of red and blue strobe lights passing below.
Whining sirens and radio crackle punctuated the multitude of whispered “thank yous” as the procession of law enforcement vehicles escorting the body of fallen Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steven Owen passed beneath the four-lane bridge.
Owen was killed Wednesday afternoon after he was struck by gunfire during a routine response to a residential burglary in Lancaster.
The 29-year sheriff’s department veteran was the first of two deputies to arrive to the scene when he worked to establish a containment just a few minutes after noon.
Owen had positioned himself to the rear of the residence when the presumed burglar opened fire.
It’s unknown how many times the sergeant was struck, but a news release from the sheriff’s department confirmed at least one bullet fatally hit the man.
The suspect, who is described as a black male on active parole, then fled to Owen’s patrol vehicle and attempted to drive it, the release said.
An arriving deputy opened fire before the suspect rammed Owen’s vehicle head-on into another patrol car and fled on foot.
The suspect then hid inside another home which at the time was occupied by two teenagers. A rescue plan was enacted after the startled and alert teens made contact with law enforcement.
As Special Enforcement Bureau deputies made entry into the house, the parolee sprinted through a back door.
The man – who was at some point struck by gunfire in the upper torso – climbed over a wall and into the custody of deputies, the release said. He was transported to a hospital before being booked.
Owen succumbed to his injuries.
An outpouring of support for Lancaster’s contracted law enforcement flooded social media feeds and eventually overflowed onto bridges and freeway overpasses as Owen was escorted by his peers from the city he serves to the metropolis of Los Angeles.
Fire engines, ambulances, patrol cars and civilian vehicles all ceased in darkness as the glow of the approaching convoy of strobing emergency lights hurled southward toward them.
Deputies stationed on the bridge were immediately were embraced from below by strangers as their hands quivered to salute their fallen brother-in-arms.
“During this difficult time, it is important to remember and appreciate the heroic efforts by those who are called upon to keep the peace,” a Facebook posting from the county sheriff said.
“In this case, Sergeant Owen was killed in his efforts, making the ultimate sacrifice.”
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— RMG News (@RMGNews) October 6, 2016