RIO RANCHO, N.M. — About 17 months ago, Lori Spina’s daughter was the apparent primary target of a would-be school shooter. Now that Joshua Owen, the teenager accused of attempting the shooting, has been released, Spina is worried and furious.
“It’s just ridiculous that they let him out,” she said. “You know he’s a danger. How could that be allowed?”
Owen, then 16, was charged with bringing a gun to Cleveland High School on Valentine’s Day 2019 and trying to shoot three classmates. According to police reports, he fled after he had trouble with the gun, and no one was injured.
Police said Owen had a to-do list indicating his intention to find and kill his ex-girlfriend, Spina’s daughter, before killing other people and himself. Eleven months before, his ex-girlfriend had reported his statement that he was hearing voices telling him to shoot up the school.
Last month, he was found still incompetent to stand trial and no residential psychiatric treatment facility in the state would take him. So, due to New Mexico law and his age, a judge dismissed the charges and released Owen with no conditions.
“He has made threats; he has followed through on those threats,” Spina said, adding that she didn’t see how it was just or safe to release Owen.
Spina said the situation is hard on her daughter, now 19, although the young woman tells her mother she’ll be OK.
“She’s 19 now,” Spina said. “I have to let her live her life.”
She said her daughter is cautious, but going to college, working and trying not to think about the possible danger.
The young woman has learned jiu jitsu for self-defense and has a temporary restraining order against Owen. At an upcoming court date, Spina and her daughter will ask the judge to make the restraining order permanent.
“As a parent, it’s like, ‘What can you do?'” Spina said.
She said her daughter knows deep down that she did the right thing by reporting Owen’s threats in 2018, even though she’d initially told him she wouldn’t.
“But this grudge he holds weighs heavily,” Spina said.
She believes the grudge led Owen to try to target her daughter in 2019, and she’s afraid he still carries it.
She doesn’t trust Owen’s parents to see that he gets mental-health treatment. They’re both charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor on accusations that they failed to lock up their gun after being informed of the voices their son said he heard.
The situation isn’t all Owen’s fault, Spina said, because it’s his parents’ job to take care of him.
“He’s a child,” she added.
She would like to see Owen monitored in some way.
“I don’t want to get a gun to protect my family,” Spina said. “That’s what the laws are supposed to do.”
Spina wants laws changed and Owen to be somewhere he can receive treatment so he and others are safe.
N.M. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said a good friend’s child was one of the students Owen threatened with the gun.
“This is something that we’ll need to take a look at during the next session,” said Brandt, a former Rio Rancho Public Schools board member.
State Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, said he was unhappy over Owen’s release and exploring options.
“It doesn’t make sense that there’s essentially nothing that can be done under law,” he said.
Harper has asked the Legislative Council Service to research laws and options to close the gap in the system. Once he has a way forward, he plans to engage with Democrat lawmakers to change the laws.