EXCLUSIVE: Widow of Pope County deputy speaks exclusively to Alpha News 

“He was afraid he’d do something wrong and end up in jail," said Shannon, the widow of Pope County Deputy Josh Owen, who was one of four officers killed in the line of duty in the area in the last month.

Pope County
Alpha News reporter Liz Collin spoke with Shannon at her kitchen table in Glenwood, Minn., as she grieves the loss of her husband.  

Shannon Owen calls Josh the love of her life.

“We met before Facebook and all that. We talked for about six months and never met. We saw each other for the first time, and we fell in love right away,” she said.

Alpha News reporter Liz Collin spoke with Shannon at her kitchen table in Glenwood, Minn., as she grieves the loss of her husband.

“He was my rock. It’s going to be hard,” she said, breaking down as she reflected on a love story of 20 years and unimaginable loss.

“He worked all these nights and the mornings are the hardest because you roll over and he’s not there,” Shannon said.

Josh Owen was a husband and father first. He loved to fish with his 10-year-old son, Rylan. Together they also loved to duck hunt and scuba dive.

Shannon says Josh was born with a servant’s heart.

“He would literally do anything for anyone. He was one of those people. If someone needed something, he’d get up and go, he’d just do it. He always wanted to help people. It was in his heart, in his blood, I don’t know what it was,” she said.

Josh Owen joined the National Guard in high school. He deployed to Bosnia and Iraq before trading one uniform for another, eventually landing at the Pope County Sheriff’s Department where he worked as a deputy for 14 years.

“He was such a well-spoken person. He’d come in a room and talk to anyone and calm you down. Just a calm person in any situation,” she said.

She joked that people would call him “muscles” and they were relieved when he’d arrive on scene.

“You just think it would happen there in a war zone, rather than over here in a small town. You just don’t expect that here. We don’t have that kind of violence here,” she added.

Josh had just thrown a big birthday party to celebrate Shannon’s 40th two weeks earlier, when on a Saturday, April 15, he turned 44 while he worked the night shift.

He stopped home for a steak dinner with Shannon and Rylan when he got the call.

“He ate most of his dinner and we were going to have cake when he said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Within a half hour I had someone at my door. It was that fast,” Shannon said.

Few details have been released about what went on in that Cyrus apartment building.

The BCA said when a man was told he’d be arrested for domestic abuse, he began shooting.

This year alone, 10 peace officers in the area have been shot in the line of duty; four, including Josh, have died.

The fourth happened on Saturday night in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, when Deputy Katie Leising, 29, died.

“I’m grieving, but I’m angry at the same time. They just don’t have enough protection and they go in on these calls shielding themselves because of what they can’t do,” Shannon said.

Shannon admits the couple had talks about Josh’s future in law enforcement due to all the changes.

“He was afraid he’d do something wrong and end up in jail and that’s how a lot of them feel. They feel like if they step over the line a little bit, they’ll go to jail. We have to be able to protect our law enforcement and our citizens. We can’t be blocking all of these things they can do,” she added.

Shannon told Gov. Tim Walz to not attend Josh’s funeral last month. We asked her to explain that decision in her own words.

“It had nothing to do with him being a Republican or Democrat. I want that to be clear. It had to do with a lot of laws they’re changing for police officers. It’s changing a lot of minds if they want to stay or not, or if they want to be a cop anymore because they can’t protect themselves, and in situations like this, whether it was drugs or mental health, they need to approach these situations and protect themselves,” she said.

senator“It’s not that I wanted to be rude or anything. It’s just that I don’t appreciate people that don’t support law enforcement. It doesn’t matter who you are, don’t show up to the funeral then,” she continued.

No DFL legislators attended Josh’s funeral either. More than 4,000 people did show up to lay Pope County’s protector to rest.

There were more than 800 squad cars, many from states away.

“Everyone is so supportive, and I didn’t realize there was so much good. You have stuff like this happen and the whole town comes out with overwhelming support. It’s amazing. I just want to thank everybody. Without the people, without the support right now, I don’t know where I’d be,” Shannon said.

Josh’s K-9, Karma, has also helped lift spirits. At first, someone else cared for Karma after Josh passed away, but Shannon said the dog went days without eating so he was returned home.

Shannon had him smell some of Josh’s clothes when he got there.

“I could tell right away, he thought, ‘I’m in my house. I’m in my house and my space.’ He was all back to normal again,” she said.

The dog was gifted to the family after Josh’s death. What happened at Josh’s grave sums up best how much he is missed.

“I decided to take Karma with me to the cemetery for the first time and I grabbed a few things from the house,” Shannon said.

“We went out there and he just sniffed around, and he laid right next to Josh, and I just lost it. It was a beautiful moment. He’s comfortable, Karma knows. Then it was just like a peace came over me,” Shannon said.

“It’s been a blessing so I’m so happy they are giving him to me. This town has just been amazing to me. We have so much support now. It makes my heart full again,” she added.

There is a fund set up to help Josh Owen’s family.


Liz Collin

Liz Collin has been a truth-teller for 20 years as a multi-Emmy-Award-winning reporter and anchor. Liz is a Worthington, Minnesota native who lives in the suburbs with her husband, son and loyal lab.