After officers stormed a funeral and shot a pallbearer, kids who saw it unfold landed in therapy, witnesses say.
Two officers interrupted a funeral in August and shot Jason Owens, who was one of the pallbearers.
Owens' aunt said if she sits still for long enough, she begins to hear people screaming.
As two officers shot rounds of fire at a pallbearer who moments earlier had been carrying his father's casket into a hearse, children in attendance frightfully looked on.
The horrific scene, which took place at the Amos Carvelli Funeral Home in West Virginia on a sunny August day, stunned funeral-goers, two witnesses recalled to Insider.
The two officers — who they said were from the US Marshals Service — came out of nowhere, interrupted the funeral, and started shooting at Jason Owens, his aunts Liz Owens and Sabrina Jones-Owens told Insider.
The death of Owens' father had already shocked the family, Liz said. He died after having a sudden heart attack. "So we're all distraught over that," she said, "and then this happens," referring to Owens' shooting.
At the funeral were kids as young as 9, Liz said. A few of them are now in therapy, she said, trying to make sense of the grisly scene they witnessed.
Some kids in attendance stood close to Owens as he and other pallbearers placed the casket into the hearse. Owens stood close enough to his 18-year-old son that blood spattered his shirt, Liz and Sabrina said.
"They could have shot the little kids," Liz said.
The youngest child has been experiencing nightmares since the day Owens died.
"I feel sorry for that little girl," Liz said.
The officers didn't identify themselves, the aunts told Insider, and were not wearing clothing or gear that immediately distinguished them as officers.
Owens, serving as one of his father's pallbearers, had just placed the casket into the hearse. Then he "took two steps," Sabrina said, turned around and hugged his Aunt Evelyn with tears in his eyes.
Suddenly, he heard someone shout out his name. He let go of the embrace and spun around toward the noise. Then two officers shot at Owens, and he collapsed to the ground.
The family watched him take his final breath, Sabrina said.
"I get breathless when I talk about it," she added.
When reached for comment The US Marshals Service directed Insider to West Virginia State Police, which did not respond to Insider's request for comment on Liz and Sabrina's accounts.
An already-dismal day turned brutal
Owens had five kids, the eldest of which stood nearby him when officers fired multiple rounds into Owens' chest, Liz and Sabrina said.
Liz said she found bloody spots on her Jeep, which had been parked right next to where police shot Owens.
"All the little kids were screaming," Liz recalled. "It was just horrible. … They just didn't care."
The whole family is traumatized by what they've seen that day, Liz and Sabrina said.
Liz's brother went to the doctor to obtain "nerve pills" in an effort to curb the anxiety that developed after witnessing Owens get shot, she said.
Owens was unarmed and sobbing when he was shot, witnesses say
After placing his father's casket in the hearse, Owens was sobbing, according to Liz. So he turned around to face the officers because he heard his name out loud. But "he was crying so hard that he wouldn't have been able to see them anyway," Liz said.
"Who would think somebody's going to get shot at their dad's funeral like that?" Liz added.
Owens had received a prison sentence of three to 13 years in 2018 after fleeing from a sheriff's deputy, The Associated Press reported. Prosecutors reportedly said he had tried to strangle the deputy, and he was released on parole in April last year.
That day, he had skipped out on updating his probation officer with his location, because he really wanted to be there for his father's funeral. He was going to contact his probation officer immediately after the funeral, they said.
In a statement, the US Marshals said Owens had been wanted on a fugitive warrant but gave no details on what it was for. The statement also claimed the officers fired because Owens had "produced a firearm," which Liz and Sabrina disputed.
No body-cam footage of the incident has been produced. In response to a freedom of information request from WOWK-TV asking for all body-cam footage in relation to the shooting, the West Virginia State Police said it's "not in possession" of any relevant records.
Liz and Sabrina told Insider they're trying to forget the day's events, but the memories of seeing their nephew shot down to the ground continue to haunt them.
"I missed two weeks of work, just trying to get it out my head," Liz said, adding that she's been working with a doctor to help her deal with the trauma.
Sabrina said she's been having nightmares, and if she sits still for long enough, she begins to hear the sound of people screaming in her head.
"You hear the shots being fired," she said. "I can still vividly hear them yelling his name."
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