NORTH PORT — Howard Owens was killed Tuesday. But the process of dying took several years, according to the North Port man’s mother.
Susan Owens said her 47-year-old son in the last couple of years had endured surgeries that foretold of a hard life ahead.
Perhaps worse, Howard Owens had lost hope.
Susan said her son was saddened by the events of today.
In the days before North Port police shot him on Tuesday, for example, he had removed the cherished American flags at his home, then raged on social media that “America as we know it is gone. The poor kids who (died) in some forgotten forest, beach or jungle did so for the rich. The American dream is lost. All we have left is to defend our homes. Believe you me someone comes into my home better have a bullet proof vest and a bible.”
He reposted clips from FOX News, and memories of the upcoming anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. One re-post from last week has an infant saluting and smiling with the words, “God Bless Trump.”
“He was so patriotic,” Susan wrote to the Sun. “It drove him crazy to see what is going on today.”
Apparently frustrated with circumstances, Owens late Tuesday, according to police reports, walked outside his home at the gated Villas at Charleston Park in North Port and began firing a handgun. Three North Port officers responding to a man making suicidal threats and possible gunshots arrived, eventually found Mr. Owens in the driveway of his home at about 8:30 p.m.
Exactly what happened wasn’t clear, but a press release from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office states: “The suspect reached for a handgun in his waistband and pointed it at two officers, causing them to fire their agency-issued weapons. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.”
A preliminary report, according to Sarasota sheriff’s investigators, revealed that Mr. Owens “previously stated he wanted officers to shoot him and threatened to use a firearm to force them to do so. No one else was injured during the incident. The investigation is ongoing.”
The three officers involved in the shooting were placed on paid leave pending an investigation by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, North Port spokesperson Josh Taylor said. It is a standard practice.
“It’s a very unfortunate and sad situation. Our hearts go out to all involved.”
Susan Owens, reached by email Wednesday, said of her son: “He had six surgeries and spent months in the hospital for the last two years. He could not deal with it. Horrible pain and trauma left him with PTSD.”
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is often linked to military veterans enduring some form of emotional trauma. It is a diagnosed mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, which in some cases can include severe health issues such as the one Mr. Owens reportedly suffered, experts insist. Researchers with the Mayo Clinic, in fact, report that PTSD victims enduring trauma often have difficulty coping, a conditon that may last for months or even years.
Most heal, however, and deal with day-to-day functioning.
In an obituary for his father from 2014, Howard Kelly Owens Jr. is listed as one of three children, two boys and a girl. His father, Howard Kelly Owens Sr., had owned several businesses in Pennsylvania, including franchises and a construction enterprise.
The North Port home where Howard Owens was killed Tuesday is off Pan American Boulevard, close to Glenallen Elementary School and Narramore Sports Complex.
His mother, a retired Glenallen Elementary School teacher, who is active in North Port social circles, reportedly lived at the home. Records indicate her son had been issued a Florida real estate license in January. It was active at the time of his death.
Reached by phone Wednesday, a distraught Susan Owens said only that her son, “hated what was happening to this country. I can’t talk,” she added.
Citing the state’s Marsy’s Law restrictions that withhold names of victims in such situations, the North Port Police Department and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting, have not released the names of the officers involved.
One of his recent reposts was a photo of an empty bench in front of the ocean with the bible verse from Psalms 68:19, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”