12/22/2014

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Former deputy plans lawsuit against county after son's death

Former deputy plans lawsuit against county after son's death

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Former Clark County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ed Owens says his employers' concerns over money and politics have come before the life of his 3-year-old son.

"A conspiracy on their part to try and cover up a set of facts by slandering me, coming after me, my credibility, because I wouldn’t be silent," Owens said Thursday.

He filed claims with the state and is planning a lawsuit against the county.

Owens' son, Ryan, died in September 2010 after gaining access to Owens' gun in his home in his county-issued safe.

"It should have never fallen into my son's hands, ever," Owens said.

He blames the gun safe for the death of Ryan. While some similar gun safes were recalled, the ones given to deputies were not.

But Owens says the safes were nothing like their name and after his son's death, everyone knew it.

In a memo only days after Ryan died, a Vancouver police detective cited his own testing of the safes. He found defects at least five times and said he has "genuine concern based on the results of these tests."

A month and a half later, a Clark County detective sent an email to Sheriff Garry Lucas asking for new ones. He said: "I would hope that the safety of employee's families would come before braving the wrath of those who need to be convinced of the soundness of this idea."

Lucas responded that night. He wrote that both Vancouver police and the county sent memos "outlining those circumstances and explaining how to make sure that safe was properly locked."

The sheriff also said he would find a reputable testing firm to investigate. Owens said that never happened.

He said his fear if the safes aren’t taken out of homes is "it's Russian roulette. Sooner or later another gun is gonna go off and another child is at risk of dying. ... My son mattered, and he matters to me and my family, and I will not stop until those safes are pulled.

Owens is seeking at least a million dollars in damages and wants his job back.

He'll also be testifying Friday at the state Capitol for a proposed law in his son's name, requiring minimum standards for gun safes.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office said no one was available to discuss the case Thursday night.

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