CEDAR CITY — A woman who was wounded by officers’ gunfire during an armed confrontation in Iron County in January has been sentenced to one year in jail, plus three years of probation.
Shawna Owens, 37, was sentenced on Monday, Nov. 13, by 5th District Judge Matthew L. Bell.
As previously reported, on the evening of Jan. 29, law enforcement officers responded to a report of a person with a firearm in the area of 4680 North and 4500 West, in the Three Peaks area northwest of Cedar City. They arrived to find Owens alone in her car parked on a dirt road just before sundown.
Approximately four minutes after the officers’ initial arrival, after numerous commands to surrender and exit the vehicle without the weapon went unheeded, the driver rolled down the passenger side front window and pointed what appeared to be a gun, prompting two of the officers to open fire.
Almost immediately thereafter, the officers approached the vehicle and rendered first aid to the injured Owens.
After evaluating the evidence, including footage from multiple officers’ body cameras, the Iron County Attorney’s Office determined the officers’ actions in using deadly force were justified.
In October, Owens pleaded guilty to five counts: two counts of assault on a peace officer with a dangerous weapon, a second-degree felony; one count of felony discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony; one count of attempted aggravated assault, a class A misdemeanor; and one count of DUI (second offense in 10 years), a class A misdemeanor.
In exchange for her guilty pleas, the remaining counts against Owens were dismissed, including an unrelated theft charge dating back to last December.
During Owens’ sentencing hearing on Monday, the court imposed a 364-day jail sentence but gave her credit for time served, which means Owens will remain in Iron County Jail until Jan. 29, 2024, the one-year anniversary of the date of the offense.
Upon her release from jail, Owens will be placed on probation for 36 months, to be supervised by Adult Probation and Parole.
Judge Bell noted that it will be a “zero tolerance” probation, meaning that any violation of its terms could result in the probation being revoked and Owens being sent to the Utah State Prison for at least five years and as many as 30 years.
“I believe you can be successful,” Bell told Owens. “It’s not designed to be a trap. You can be successful, but it does require you to comply with exactness.”
Bell also admonished Owens to stay clean and sober and abide by all the other terms of her probation.
“You’ve got to stay completely off alcohol, and you’ve got to follow all these terms to the T, otherwise, it’s going to be prison,” Bell said. “And that won’t be because we don’t still think you need treatment. That’ll be because we’ve got to keep people safe.”
Bell noted that the law enforcement officers who were involved were supportive of the leniency offered to Owens as part of the plea agreement.
“If they’re willing to give you that chance, I will just sign off on it,” Bell told Owens, adding, “Please don’t blow it.”
Following the sentencing, Deputy Iron County Attorney Trajan Evans issued the following written statement:
The Iron County Attorney’s Office recognizes the extremely dangerous situation that was created by Owens and commends the law enforcement officers that were on the scene. In the midst of this danger, deputies and officers followed their training to negate the risk posed by Owens and then rushed to her aid and saved her life. We are impressed by how quickly and methodically they moved from protecting themselves to saving Ms. Owens’ life. This case underscores the heroics that law enforcement in our county demonstrate on a daily basis. The officers involved also agreed to give Ms. Owens a chance to be successful on probation. Again, I think this underscores their selflessness and humility. We are thankful for them.
Owens’ defense attorney Matt Munson also shared similar sentiments in written comments emailed to Cedar City News.
“As mentioned by the Court on multiple occasions at sentencing, Ms. Owens was given this opportunity at a second chance, as opposed to being sentenced to prison, in large part because the very law enforcement officers and other first responders whose lives she endangered on Jan. 29, 2023, were supportive of her being given such an opportunity,” Munson said, adding, “Today, we are especially grateful for these brave, selfless men and women who placed themselves in harm’s way that day in an effort to protect the community – and to ultimately save Ms. Owens’s life.”
Added Munson: “What is perhaps most admirable and commendable to me is that these local heroes were then willing to extend mercy and grace to someone like Ms. Owens, a stranger.”
Munson said he and his client were “extremely pleased with the deliberate and methodical manner in which the court worked through what was a very complicated case, with many different, competing interests at play.”
Munson said he was “very pleased” with the court’s ruling, which he said would give his client the opportunity to obtain the mental health treatment that she has “so badly needed for so long, as a result of extensive trauma that she has experienced throughout her life.”
“Ms. Owens has been most appreciative of the incredible amount of love and support that she has received, and will continue to receive, from so many people who know her,” Munson added. “She is anxious to get the mental health treatment that she needs and to be reunited again with her family.”
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