Ex-sheriff's detective files lawsuit in son's death

Boy shot while playing with gun; complaint names former employer

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A former Clark County sheriff’s detective has sued the sheriff’s office and a gun safe manufacturer over the shooting death of his 3-year-old son in September 2010.

Eddie “Ryan” Owens, son of former Det. Eddie P. Owens and his wife, Kristie, died from a gunshot wound after accessing and playing with a pistol stored inside the couple’s Battle Ground home.

While there are conflicting reports between the family and investigators of what happened, one of the Owens’ children removed the gun from a Stack-On Strong Box on a shelf in the parents’ bedroom walk-in closet, according to the wrongful death suit filed in Clark County Superior Court.

While Ryan was playing with the pistol in the Owens’ Battle Ground home, the weapon fired and struck the 3-year-old in the face, the complaint says.

The sheriff’s office purchased gun safes from Stack-On Products Co. of Illinois from 2003 to 2010 to store firearms in the workplace and homes of sheriff’s personnel, according to the complaint.

In November 2004, Stack-On voluntarily recalled 1,320 gun safes manufactured between 2003 and 2004 because of defects identified in the safes’ locking mechanisms.

But the company failed to warn customers that the defect also was present in other Strong Box safes, not just the 1,320 that were recalled, the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges that the sheriff’s office began receiving complaints from deputies in 2006 that the locks on Stack-On safes were malfunctioning, yet failed to properly address the problem.

Bernard Veljacic, a deputy prosecutor in the civil division, said the county refutes the allegations in the complaint. Stack-On could not be reached late Tuesday.

The county and Stack-On have 20 days to file their responses in court.

Owens was fired in November 2010 after a sheriff’s internal affairs investigation found the seven-year sheriff’s veteran violated policies on proper firearms storage, off-duty conduct, ethics, competency and employee responsibilities in connection to Ryan’s death. Owens filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in May 2012.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com