Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Authorities have charged the parents of a teenager accused of shooting a gun inside a Rio Rancho high school, saying they knew their son had threatened to shoot up the school and had a duty to secure their firearm but didn’t.
Dale Owen, 62, and Tamara Owen, 48, are each charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a fourth-degree felony.
In March 2018, police say, then-15-year-old Joshua Owen sent a text message to his ex-girlfriend saying, “Ever since my dad got a gun from his friend something tells me I should shoot up my school and I don’t want to but I keep fighting it.”
This message set off an investigation, a mental health evaluation and an interview with the teenager and his parents.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Sandoval County Magistrate Court, Joshua’s ex-girlfriend showed the text message to a school administrator and a school resource officer. The officer then interviewed Joshua, who told him he had been hearing voices for the past year that told him to “shoot up the school.”
When his parents were told about Joshua’s statements, they denied having a firearm in their home, according to the complaint.
However, they did have a firearm in their home 11 months later when, police say, the now-16-year-old went into the walk-in closet in their bedroom and took an unsecured handgun from the top shelf one morning.
Police say Joshua – wearing a ski mask over his face – took the gun to V. Sue Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho and tried to shoot three students sitting in an alcove. The gun didn’t fire initially, and Joshua then shot into the air instead, according to court documents. No one was injured.
“Due to prior knowledge of Joshua’s mental health, prior threats to ‘shoot up the school’ and indications that he would attempt to gain a firearm, it appears that Joshua’s parents contributed to his delinquency by failing to secure a firearm within their residence,” an officer wrote in the complaint charging Dale and Tamara Owen.
Joshua was arrested in an arroyo near the school and charged with three counts of attempted murder, unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises and unlawful possession of a handgun by a person under 19.
According to court documents he had a note in his pocket that said:
“1. Find ex gf
2. Kill ex gf
3. Kill other people
4. If you have a last bullet take your own life.”
It is unclear whether the ex-girlfriend he referred to in the note was the same ex-girlfriend he had texted about shooting up the school.
Joshua was found to be incompetent by a mental health evaluator in mid-May, according to his public defender, Steve Archibeque.
Archibeque said his client is still being held at the Juvenile Detention Center until he can be treated for his mental health problems.
“We’re just trying to get treatment for Joshua,” Archibeque said. “We’re just trying to get him placed in a treatment center as quickly as possible, because he’s been in custody for a little over four months.”
If Joshua is found competent at a later date, his case will continue.