LOS ANGELES — A man who killed a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant in what prosecutors called an execution-style attack five years ago pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree murder.
Trenton Lovell, 31, entered the plea for the 2016 killing of Sgt. Steve Owen, who was shot five times as he answered a 911 report of a burglary in progress at an apartment building in Lancaster, in the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.
He could face life in prison without possibility of parole when he is sentenced on May 17.
Owen had radioed that he had the break-in suspect at gunpoint and was standing outside his patrol car when Lovell shot him in the head, then fired four more times in his face and chest as the deputy lay wounded on the ground, prosecutors said.
Lovell confessed to investigators that after wounding Owen he “finished the job” by emptying his revolver into Owen, according to court documents cited by the Los Angeles Times.
Another deputy testified in court that he arrived to see Lovell standing over Owen. Deputy Zachary Anderson said he fired at Lovell after the suspect pointed a gun at him.
Lovell then jumped into Owen’s patrol car and rammed Anderson’s vehicle. Anderson said he jumped out of the way because he was afraid Lovell was going to run him down.
Prosecutors said Lovell then jumped out of the disabled patrol car and ran to a nearby home where he robbed and held a 19-year-old woman and her 17-year-old brother at gunpoint for an hour before leaving.
He was captured a short time later and treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder.
In addition to murder, Lovell pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder for ramming the patrol car; burglary with a person present; being a felon in possession of a gun; robbery; and false imprisonment by violence.
Lovel had a record of nearly a dozen previous arrests and several convictions, including one in 2009 for armed robbery, and was on parole at the time of the shooting.
Owen was a 29-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown and law enforcement officers from as far away as New York attended his funeral.
“Sgt. Owen sacrificed his life to protect the community he served,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “This plea will not bring Sgt. Owen back but will hopefully provide some small measure of peace to his family.”
Owen’s widow, Tania Owen, had said she wanted Lovell to face the death penalty but the DA’s office didn’t seek it.
Gascón, who was elected last November, opposes use of capital punishment.
Owen’s widow is now co-chair of a campaign to recall Gascón.
“My husband for 29 years fought for victims’ rights to the point where he actually laid down his life for victims,” she said earlier this year. “I can tell you that no victim I ever encountered has ever said: ‘We don’t want these individuals held accountable and responsible to the full extent of the law.’”