Witnesses describe a scene straight out of a mob movie. Two unmarked police vehicles came barreling into the parking lot of a West Virginia funeral home last month moments after a family had placed the casket of their loved one into a hearse.
Plainclothes cops hopped out of the vehicles with their guns drawn and called out a man’s name – “Jason!” – before opening fire.
Jason Arnie Owens, one of the pallbearers, had just placed his father’s casket into the hearse when he turned to hug his aunt. Seconds later, the 37-year-old man was shot and killed.
The U.S. Marshals Service said they were serving a fugitive warrant when Owens pulled out a gun, making them fear for their lives.
But witnesses, mostly family members, say he never had a gun.
Today, more than two weeks after the shooting, the U.S. Marshals Service have yet to provide any evidence that Owens had a gun on him nor has it explained what the fugitive warrant was for, according to the Associated Press.
The incident took place on August 24 in Nutter Fort, a small town in Harrison County in the northern part of the state.
Evelyn O’Dell, Owen’s aunt, stated the following to WV News:
“He just took his dad out; he was a pallbearer. He had just laid his dad in the back of a hearse, and he was walking around, and I was hugging him. Next thing I know, somebody yelled ‘Jason.’ I still had my hand on my shoulder, my one hand from hugging him, when the first bullet hit him. He never pulled a gun or nothing, and we’re trying to get justice for him because they cold-blooded killed him. He never pulled a gun. He did not pull a gun,” O’Dell said.
Family members have staged protests in front of the Harrison County Courthouse, demanding answers but receiving none. And West Virginia State Police which is investigating the incident have told local media no video evidence exists.
Below is the only statement released by the U.S. Marshal Service:
“At approximately 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, members of the U.S. Marshals-led Mountain State Fugitive Task Force and other law enforcement agencies were involved in an officer-involved shooting during a fugitive investigation that resulted in a fatality in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Preliminary information indicates that during the arrest attempt, the subject produced a firearm. As a result, law enforcement officers discharged their firearms striking the individual. Officers immediately rendered first aid until emergency medical services arrived; however, the man succumbed to his injuries. No law enforcement officers or other persons were injured during the incident. The lead investigating agency for this incident is the West Virginia State Police.”
Owens was released from prison in April 2021 on parole after serving more than two years in prison of a 3-13 sentence for fleeing and strangling a Harrison County sheriff’s deputy in 2018 so there may have been bad blood between the local cops and Owens.
And federal task forces are usually made up of local and state cops, so there’s a good chance the cops who shot him had personal experiences with him. But their names have not been released.
He also had another battery on a law enforcement conviction about 15 years ago against a Lumberport police officer, according to WV News.
Mandy Swiger, Owens’ cousin, said he committed a parole violation “for not checking in just once. And that’s why he promised his mom after the funeral he would turn himself in,” according to the Associated Press.
She said about 40 friends and family members were attending the funeral of Junior Arnie Owens who unexpectedly passed away on August 20 at the age of 59.
She said mourners rushed to Owens after he was shot but the cops threatened to shoot them as well. One of the cops was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
“You step back or I’ll shoot you,” she quoted them as saying.
Below is a screenshot from Owens’ Facebook page of a post he made the day his father passed away, not realizing he would be dead four days later. Family members have launched a Facebook group called Justice for Jason Owens.