NUTTER FORT, W.Va. (WBOY) — A West Virginia State Police Report of Criminal Investigation reveals more details about the deadly officer-involved shooting that happened last summer at the Amos Carvelli Funeral Home in Nutter Fort.
The special prosecutor in the case, Grant County Prosecuting Attorney John Ours, recently ruled the shooting “justified” following the investigation into the incident.
12 News filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to obtain a copy of that investigation into the death of 37-year-old Jason Arnie Owens on Aug. 24, 2022.
Owens was previously arrested for strangling a sergeant with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators spoke with Owens’ parole officer, who provided a statement saying that Owens’ warrant was requested on Feb. 17, 2022, after receiving reports that Owens did have a gun and was threatening to shoot an individual. Owens had also failed to report to his parole officer, according to the statement. Owens was prohibited from having a firearm, officers said.
Owens was at the funeral home for the funeral of his father.
Investigators spoke with multiple former coworkers who said that prior to Owens’ death, he made statements that he “wouldn’t be ‘taken’ alive,” and he “had been carrying firearms and ‘wouldn’t be taken without a fight,'” according to the report. One coworker also reported Owens was making “threats” on Facebook.
According to a search warrant included in the report, one such post said “Mr. Owens would leave this world ‘covered in someone else’s blood.'”
Another statement from one of the two officers who shot Owens, a detective with the Bridgeport Police Department and member of the Greater Harrison County Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force (GHCDVCTF), stated that an HCSO Evidence Technician with the GHCDVCTF informed other task force members that Owens stated he “came into this world bloody, kicking, and screaming and that he would go out of this world the same way, should law enforcement attempt to apprehend him.”
A statement provided to investigators by the other law enforcement officer who shot Owens, a sergeant with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, claims:
Given Jason Owen’s history of fleeing arrest, violence against law enforcement, the statements made by Jason Owens that he would use violence to avoid capture, and belief by the United States Marshal Mountain State Fugitive Task Force that Jason Owens would likely have a weapon inside of his vehicle, the decision was made by the Marshal Service that Officers would attempt to take Jason Owens into custody after he exited the Funeral Home, following the funeral service, but before he could get to his vehicle.
The officers’ accounts of the shooting state that they did identify themselves as police, and were wearing vests marked “POLICE” on the day of the incident, and that they told Owens not to move and that he was under arrest. The detective wrote that he was reaching for his handcuffs when he heard the sergeant yell “he’s reaching” and saw Owens turn toward him, as well as “his right hand pulling the right side of his shirt up from his hip” and “his right-hand wrap around the handle of a black pistol, which was concealed in his waistband, as he was pulling it.”
The detective wrote that he “tried stepping out of the way and I believe he was trying to pull me in to him, which caused scratch marks from his fingernails.”
The officers both wrote in their statements that at the time of the shooting, they feared for their own lives, each other’s lives and the lives of bystanders at the funeral home.
The sergeant’s statement to investigators there was that after the shooting, officers were “attempting to medically assist Jason Owens’ and to allow EMS to access the scene, as well as to preserve any relevant evidence.”
Some witnesses’ statements contradicted those of the officers.
While one family member did say Owens had a gun, that family member said in a statement to investigators that the officers never identified themselves and “never yelled for him to put his hands up.” That family member said that Owens “stopped right where he was at” and “never made an attempt to flee, fight, or any sudden movements. The statement does acknowledge that Owens’ “shirt moved and you could see a gun,” but the family member wrote that “His right hand NEVER grabbed the gun. The gun NEVER came out of the holster.” “No CPR was given or life saving measures. They had a white sheet covering him up before paramedics got to him,” the statement continued.
Another family member claimed that Owens was “‘giving up’ and placed his hands behind his back.” Other witnesses said that Owens was hugging his aunt when he was shot and that he did not pull a firearm.
One witness who worked at the funeral home said he “observed officers approach the deceased and physically attempt to control him” while speaking “to the deceased [Jason] in a calm manner,” and attempting “to get him to surrender.” That witness also described recognizing the detective and hearing him “tell the deceased ‘don’t do it,'” and that the witness “observed the deceased have a black pistol in a brown holster which he was attempting to retrieve.”
As a part of the investigation, state police collected body camera video from a Harrison County Sheriff’s deputy. The video showed the deputy remove a black pistol from a brown holster on Owens’ side, the report said. The pistol that was collected as evidence was a Walther 9mm. The report details that investigators tracked down the registered owner of the gun, who said that it went missing two years ago, but was not reported stolen or missing.
As part of the investigation following the incident, state troopers reported finding a .22 Magnum revolver, a .22 Magnum rifle and several containers of .22 Magnum ammunition in Owens’ SUV. Also found in the SUV were “multiple drug paraphernalia items,” troopers said.
On Sept. 13, a medical examiner provided investigators with a cellophane package containing a white crystal substance, that was found in Owens’ pants pocket on the day of his death, according to the medical examiner’s report to state police.
A toxicology report returned to investigators on March 24, 2023, showed that Owens tested positive for hydrocodone, amphetamine, methamphetamine, fentanyl and norfentanyl, at the time of his death.