Hundreds of Antelope Valley residents gathered Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Steven Owen, who was fatally shot earlier this week during a burglary investigation.
Residents started gathering about 5:30 p.m. outside the Lancaster sheriff's station at Sierra Highway and Lancaster Boulevard. The group, some of them carrying pictures of a smiling Owen and others holding signs that said "Blue Lives Matter," were planning to march around the station.
Earlier in the day, the Owen family spoke out for the first time this week, thanking residents for their support of the slain lawman.
"The continuous outpouring of encouragement, gratitude, and respect for him that has come from our community and across the nation has brought us the comfort and the strength needed to survive this tragedy," the family said in a prepared statement.
"Rest assured, he will always be patrolling the streets of our community," the statement continued. "You may not see him, but he is there."
The family's public statement came three days after Owen, 53, was fatally shot while responding to a residential burglary.
Suspect Trenton Trevon Lovell, 27, who was on parole for another violation, faced off with Owen outside an apartment complex, authorities said. Lovell shot and wounded Owen, then stood over the lawman and fired four additional rounds, authorities said.
Lovell was charged with murder Friday in Owen's death. He faces additional charges: attempted murder of a sheriff's deputy, being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts each of residential robbery and false imprisonment. Lovell was ordered held without bail.
The charges could make him eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Prosecutors will decide later what punishment to seek.
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris has said he plans to ask the City Council to rename Lancaster Community Park after Owen. If approved, the space would be named Sgt. Steve Owen Community Park.
"We want to say thank you for everyone who has stood in support, prayed, written letters, shared stories and are continuing to grieve beside us in honor of our fallen hero," the Owen family said in its statement. "Steve paid the ultimate sacrifice, but his passing is uniting this community."
Owen, a 29-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department and a Medal of Valor recipient, was a well-known sergeant who volunteered as a football coach in the community. Since his death, a steady stream of locals — including people previously arrested by Owen — have visited the sheriff's substation to pay their respects.
Times photographer Patrick Fallon contributed to this story.
6:56 p.m.: This story has been updated with new information about vigil.
12:06 p.m.: This article was updated with reaction from the Owen family.