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Shooting suspect: ‘The voices won’t stop’

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

When 16-year-old Joshua Owen walked onto the campus of Cleveland High School before classes started Thursday morning, he was wearing a ski mask and he had a note in his back pocket that spoke to his deadly intentions, according to court documents.

“1. Find ex gf

2. Kill ex gf

3. Kill other people

4. If you have a last bullet take your own life”

Owen, a sophomore, didn’t kill anyone. Instead police say he tried to shoot at three students, then fired a single shot, causing the school to be evacuated and classes to be canceled for the rest of the week.

Owen later told police he was hearing voices in his head that told him to carry out his list.

He is charged with three counts of attempted murder as well as unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises and unlawful possession of a handgun by a person under 19.

Owen will have his first appearance before a judge in the 13th Judicial District Court in Bernalillo on Monday.

His defense attorney did not return calls requesting comment. Family members also could not be reached Friday.

Gun malfunction

Shortly after 7 a.m., Rio Rancho Police Department officers were called to Cleveland High School, near Paseo del Volcan and Unser NE, for reports of a shooting.

When detectives arrived they watched security camera video footage showing Owen arriving on school grounds with a mask over his face, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 13th Judicial District Court in Sandoval County.

“Before he entered the building, he removes the face mask and walks up to a group of three students … sitting in an alcove,” the detective wrote in the affidavit. “One student stated Joshua pointed the gun at them and ‘it didn’t go off.’ ”

Owen then “manipulates” the gun and pulled the trigger, firing a shot, according to the affidavit.

He put the firearm, a .45 caliber handgun, on the floor and ran down the hallway.

Owen’s teacher later told police she saw him running away and 20 minutes later got a text from him saying, “I’m sorry Miss. Sawyer but the voices won’t stop” and asking if he hurt anyone.

He told the teacher he was in an arroyo by his house, which is across the street from the campus, and officers began following footprints away from the school.

They found an abandoned backpack with a black nylon handgun holster and school work inside, according to the affidavit.

Officers say when they found Owen and began talking to him, he “reached into his front pocket, removed and threw a handgun magazine behind him.”

Then the officers took him into custody.

When he was interviewed at the police station, Owen told investigators he had a note in his back pocket, dated Feb. 13, which laid out his sparse plan for the shooting. He also told them he had a “sorry letter” in his room at his house.

“A short time later, Joshua also informed officers of a journal that was in his room on a bookshelf next to his Legos,” the affidavit states. “He also stated that he was hearing voices which instructed him to carry out the aforementioned list.”

No previous charges

A clerk at the 13th Judicial District Court said Owen had not previously faced criminal charges there.

And it remains unclear how or where he got the handgun.

“That’s part of our investigation,” said Capt. Andrew Rodriguez, an RRPD spokesman. “I’m not comfortable releasing any information about the gun or how it got into his hands.”

School officials did not respond to questions Friday about whether Owen had been in trouble at school previously.

Court records show his parents had a contentious relationship, and the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department had been called to the home.

In March 2015, his mother filed two orders of protection from domestic abuse against her husband, Owen’s father.

It’s unclear whether those orders were upheld, but in the first one Tamara Owen wrote that her husband, Dale Owen, “physically/verbally abused my sons.”

She wrote “my son Joshua was slapped/hit on the back of his head five times and the back. The abuse happened at home. CYFD was contacted.”

She wrote that CYFD told Dale Owen he could not have contact with the rest of the family for 45 days, and she asked for him to be ordered to attend anger management therapy.

Ten days later, Tamara Owen filed another order saying her husband was harassing and stalking her and that he wouldn’t leave the family alone.

She said her husband doesn’t have any weapons. It is unclear if the parents are still together.