fallen heroes

Officer Ronald Owens (1972-2009)

His name was Ronald Owens II, but his friends all called him Ronnie.

He was the Lakewood cop who always had a big smile on his face. A good basketball player, a passionate NASCAR fan who wore his hair in a curly blond mullet, and a devoted dad who spent almost all of his days off with his 7-year-old daughter.

If you met him, his fellow officers said, you’d want to be his friend.

Officer Owens, 37, a second-generation police officer and former Washington State Patrol trooper, was one of the four Lakewood officers shot and killed on Sunday by gunman Maurice Clemmons as they worked on police paperwork at a Parkland coffee shop.

“He was a very dedicated father, first and foremost,” said Lakewood Police Officer Jeff Martin, who knew him for 11 years and counted Officer Owens as his best friend.

Martin said Officer Owens, who was divorced, spent almost all of off-duty time with his daughter. He attended all of her school and family functions, rode bicycles with her, and treated her to events like “Disney on Ice.”

“He was very carefree and always ready to make you laugh,” Martin said. “Not a negative bone in his body. He never complained. With being a police officer, a lot of the negativity you see over time catches up with you, and he just had the unique ability not to dwell on it.”

Officer Owens was drawn to police work by his father, also named Ronald Owens, who was a sergeant in the Tacoma Police Department and retired in 1980. He died in 2006.

His fellow officers say Officer Owens’ easygoing nature made him fun to be around, but he never hesitated to pitch in and do things for others — whether it was helping a fellow officer process evidence or changing a motorist’s tire on the side of the road.

“I can remember him stopping for a disabled vehicle one night,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Al Havenner, who worked with Officer Owens for several years while he was with the Washington State Patrol. “It was raining. I rolled up on him to see what was going on, and he was changing a tire — not angry but smiling about it. It was what he did.”

Officer Owens served with the state patrol from 1997 to 2004, and he joined the Lakewood Police Department when it was formed in 2004.

“There was probably no one better — you didn’t even have to ask him for help,” Havenner said. “He was always the first one there to lend a hand. In our line of work, we answer a lot of calls for service, and he was always the guy to grab the radio and say he’d be en route to a call.”

Havenner described Officer Owens as a man who treated everyone with respect — even people who didn’t do much to deserve it.

“I remember one instance, it was a DUI, and it was the kind of DUI who was very belligerent,” Havenner said, “but Ronnie kept his composure and treated the guy with the utmost respect. That’s a rare breed in law enforcement, and that’s who Ronnie was.”

Lakewood Fire District Capt. Mike Harn also saw that side of him when the two worked together on calls.

“Sometimes I don’t know how the cops do it,” Harn said. “He was able to keep a positive attitude and treat people with respect who may not have deserved respect. You’d kind of like to emulate that.”

Officer Owens was also “extremely loyal to his friends,” Martin said. “You could have a private conversation with Ronnie — and it would absolutely remain private, period.”

Officer Owens and Sgt. Mark Renninger, who also was killed in the shooting, were both NASCAR fans. “They would talk about engines and torque,” Lakewood Officer Mike Wiley said, and once they started talking NASCAR, no one could get them to stop.

Officer Owens had an unusually close relationship with Lakewood Fire District firefighters. Before the Lakewood Police Department building was constructed, some of the Lakeview police force was stationed in a building near the fire department, and Officer Owens was one of several who came over often to share dinner or Sunday breakfast.

“Oh man, he’s about the nicest guy on the planet,” said Harn, who got to know Officer Owens from dinners at the station and charity basketball games between the two departments.

“He always had a smile on his face.”

Officer Owens’ family released this statement to the Tacoma News Tribune:

“Ronnie Owens was first and foremost a loving and devoted father. He lived his entire life in Parkland and was honored to serve this community. Our family would like to thank everyone for their support and prayers. He will be greatly missed by all.”

Officer Owens is survived by his mother, two sisters and his daughter.

Taken from:
Rahner, Mark and Long, Katherine. (2009). Lakewood Police Officer Ronald Owens was always smiling. The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 18, 2010, from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/obituaries/2010429569_owensobit05m.html

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