The teenager accused of firing shots at Cleveland High School in 2019 has been released with no conditions and his charges dropped.
Joshua Owen was 16 when, according to police, he brought a handgun to school that Valentine’s Day and unsuccessfully tried to shoot three students before fleeing. According to court documents, he had a to-do list stating his intentions to kill his ex-girlfriend and others before committing suicide.
In June 2019, Owen’s public defender, Steve Archibeque, told the Albuquerque Journal that his client had been found incompetent to stand trial and was being held at the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center. Archibeque was trying to get the teenager placed in a treatment center.
Last week, 13th Judicial District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said Owen was re-evaluated this June.
“He was still incompetent,” Martinez said.
A court order had involuntarily committed Owen to the New Mexico Department of Health’s Sequoyah Adolescent Treatment Center.
After the June competency hearing, Martinez said, attorneys for the Department of Health and the University of New Mexico Hospital Children’s Psychiatric Center “fought vigorously in court” against accepting Owen, saying they couldn’t treat him.
Under state statute, Martinez said, because there was nowhere to send Owen to be treated to competency, the judge had to dismiss the charges in late June.
“He’s released back into the community,” Martinez said.
There’s no court order requiring Owen to receive any treatment. Martinez doesn’t know where the boy is staying.
Rio Rancho Public Schools spokeswoman Melissa Perez said Friday that no student by the name of Joshua Owen was enrolled in the district.
Spokesmen for UNM Health Sciences and the state Department of Health were asked for comment about why they couldn’t treat Owen, or if privacy laws prevented that statement, what policies were used in deciding whether a teenager would be treated at their facilities.
“UNM Hospital is committed to providing high-quality, necessary and appropriate health care,” said UNM Health Sciences spokesman Mark Rudi in an email. “As required under applicable federal and state health-care privacy laws, we cannot respond to your inquiry.”
DOH spokesman David Morgan stressed that Sequoyah doesn’t treat teenagers on an involuntary basis.
“The Department of Health’s Sequoyah Adolescent Treatment Facility is a voluntary residential treatment center for youth ages 13 to 17 who are actively violent, have a history of violence and/or have a diagnosed mental-health disorder that are amenable to treatment,” Morgan said. “Sequoyah is not a facility that treats to competency.”
Adults who can’t be treated to competency would be sent to the psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, Martinez said. However, state law prevents a case against a minor from moving forward, even to being charged as an adult, without the youth being found competent.
Owen’s parents, Dale and Tamara Owen, were each charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor based on accusations that the gun wasn’t secured although they’d been informed 11 months before that their son said he was hearing voices telling him to shoot up the school.
Martinez said their cases were moving forward in district court as attorneys handled legal motions.
Attorneys for Dale and Tamara Owen didn’t return phone calls seeking comment about the release of their son and its effect on their own cases by press time.