Joshua Owens

Joshua Owens

GOSHEN — A Goshen police officer allegedly pointed a gun at a person and then put it in his mouth while drunk during a domestic abuse incident nearly four months ago.

Joshua Owens, 37, is charged with Level 6 felony counts of domestic battery and strangulation and is facing an arrest warrant as initial court processes begin. The city of Goshen is also moving to suspend him without pay.

During an Indiana State Police investigation, Owens was accused of being drunk while committing a variety of acts against a person at an address near Milford the night of Nov. 6. He allegedly choked the person with both hands during a verbal argument while two youths were also at the location, according to details provided in the probable cause affidavit in the case.

After apparently settling briefly, the situation re-escalated to where Owens allegedly became physical again, and accusations included him drawing a handgun from his hip and pointing it at the victim before turning the barrel and putting it in his mouth while indicating the trigger should be pulled. The gun was described as one he wears to work every day with a belief that it was loaded, the affidavit shows.

Owens also allegedly damaged several items, and followed the victim through the location, according to the affidavit.

Amid the description of the incident were also allegations that Owens had been drinking that night, and he had abused alcohol multiple times in the past and had been disruptive as a result, according to the affidavit.

The document indicates police were not called to respond to the location that night. A state police detective began investigating the incident about a week later. Sgt. Ted Bohner, a state police spokesman, said command at the Bremen post had heard concerns from a source who wished to remain anonymous.

“Based on the seriousness of the allegations, we felt obligated to begin an investigation, and we did, and obviously this is where we ended up,” Bohner said.

The Goshen Police Department wasn’t aware of how the state police investigation began.

“We have not been made aware of how they became involved,” Polly Hoover, department spokeswoman, said in an email in response to a question.

Hoover, in response to another question, said the department also wasn’t aware of Owens’ alleged use of alcohol.

In a news release, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said Owens was placed on administrative leave and removed from active duty after the city was notified of the criminal investigation. Stutsman also said he learned of the charges Monday as they were being filed.

The case, filed in Elkhart County Superior Court 1, will be led by a special prosecutor — Bruce Embrey, a retired prosecuting attorney out of Miami County. Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Becker said she sought a special prosecutor to try the case in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety since Owens is also a member of the county’s Intelligence and Covert Enforcement Unit, which reports to her office.

The Goshen Police Department hired Owens full-time in December 2007. He faced no prior disciplinary action that resulted in any suspensions or demotions, Chief Jose Miller said in a separate news release.

With Owens now facing charges, the city Board of Public Works and Safety, at Chief Miller’s request, will begin the process of suspending Owens without pay. The board intends to undertake the procedure at its next meeting March 1.

“I do not have the details of the evidence or investigation and I seek to remain fair in judgement (sic),” Stutsman said in his news release. “If the officer is not convicted, there will be an internal investigation, and using the findings of the internal investigation, the Board of Works will take appropriate action. If the officer is convicted, I and Chief Miller will request immediate dismissal.”

Stutsman said Owens was summoned from his administrative leave on Feb. 8 to return to work in an “official non-police capacity.” Owens chose to take his personal time instead, Stutsman said.

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 240316. Follow her on Twitter at @aambrose_TGN.

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