Markel Owens, an Arkansas State University defensive lineman and his stepfather were shot and killed Wednesday night during a home invasion robbery in Jackson, Tenn., according to a Thursday afternoon news release from the Jackson Police Department. Owens’ mother was also shot during the incident but has been treated and released from the hospital.
Police said 21-year-old Owens and his stepfather, 36-year-old Johnny Shivers, were shot and died from their injuries.
Owens, who grew up in Jackson and graduated from Liberty Technology Magnet High School in 2010, was, in high school, a three-time all-district selection, including first team honors in 2008 and 2009, according to Astateredwolves.com, the official site of Arkansas State University Athletics. He was named District MVP in 2009 and also all-state selection.
Owens, who stood 6 feet and 2 inches tall and weighed 303 pounds, committed to ASU on Feb. 3, 2010. He was a Redshirt senior who was a ASU Athletic Director’s Honor Roll member and played five games, including the Go-Daddy.com Bowl in 2010. In 2012, Owens, whose number is 94, played three games in a reserve role on the defensive line, according to the website.
Owens was also a business management major and a three-year letterman who had just completed his redshirt junior season.
According to his Twitter feed for @Oskie2Real, Owens left Jonesboro, Ark., where ASU is located, on Jan. 7. Later that day, he made it to Jackson, which according to Google Maps was just under a two and a half hour trip.
From Jan. 7 up until 5:44 p.m. Wednesday, Owens tweeted about spending time with his family, attending some Jackson high school football games and “grind hard”, which was his motto.
According to Jackson police, around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, officers were dispatched to an apartment duplex located at 770 Walker Road. Owens’ 37-year-old mother was lying in the front yard with a gunshot wound.
Owens and Shivers were both found with gunshot wounds inside the apartment. Police said Shivers was apparently deceased on the scene, but Owens was transported to the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Owens' mother was treated for her injuries and was released Wednesday night from Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Although the news release did not identify Owens’ mother’s name, her first name is listed as Chermaine on Owens’ biography page on Astateredwolves.com.
The release said that JPD investigators believe the robbers specifically targeted Shivers. A large amount of marijuana was found inside the apartment and while the motive of the incident is still under investigation, JPD believes the robbers knew that the marijuana and/or the cash they stole was inside the apartment.
JPD investigators said they learned that Shivers was arriving home when two masked men rushed Shivers and forced inside the apartment, where Owens and his mother were. The men demanded money and a struggle began.
Owens, who helped Shivers, began fighting one of the men. It was during the struggle that Shivers and Owens were shot. One of the gunmen then shot Owens mother.
Police said the men got away with a large amount of cash. The only description of the men is that they were two black males who possibly fled the crime scene in a white Honda Civic.
News of Owens’ murder hit social networks early Thursday morning. Friends, fans and members of the ASU family posted their condolences and prayers for Owens’ family, friends and fans.
On ASU’s Athletics ‘website, Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir was quoted as saying: “Our worst fears were realized as an athletics department after being notified early this morning about the unfortunate news about Markel. We're deeply saddened and our utmost sympathies go out to his family, teammates and classmates. Please join me in prayer for so many people who are being impacted by the loss of Markel.”
Head football coach Blake Anderson said, “Markel was a part of our Red Wolves family, and it is obvious he was a well-liked and respected member of our team who will be missed. We are doing everything possible to comfort his teammates and we extend our compassion to his family during this difficult time.”
ASU is providing counseling for students who are grieving over Owens’ passing.
Jackson police are asking that anyone with information about this crime or the identities of the suspects contact the Jackson Police Department's Major Crimes Bureau at 731-425-8400 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 731-424-8477 (TIPS). You can also submit a cyber tip at jmcrimestoppers.org and click on “web tips.”