11/18/2007

Coolness under fire earns Mich. officer honor

By Elizabeth Lowe

BURTON, Mich. A Carman-Ainsworth High School graduate has been named as the Burton Rotary's Police Officer of the Year.

John Owens, who graduated from Carman-Ainsworth High School in 1989 and earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Ferris State University, doesn't talk much about the mentally ill man who charged him with a hunting knife three years ago at the Burton Meijer store, chopping it into his skull so forcefully it chipped bone.

"It wasn't exactly the funnest day of my life," Owens said.

He doesn't brag about what Burton Police Chief Bruce Whitman terms a textbook-perfect response by Owens and his fellow officers, when after being stabbed repeatedly, Owens retained the presence of mind to shoot his attacker in the abdomen.

He doesn't publicly discuss his team shouting "Everyone down," or firing just a single shot to keep shoppers safe, or testifying to help imprison his attacker, who stabbed two college students in downtown Flint in 1993.

Most of all, said Whitman, Owens doesn't complain about summoning his strength to return to police work after six weeks of recovering from the attack.

"It would be easy to succumb and say, 'I'm not cut out for this,' especially with two little guys at home," said Whitman, who nominated Owens for a previous award by the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs. "He's truly heroic."

A married father of two young sons, Owens worked for the Mundy Township Police Department before being hired by Burton in 1997.

Co-workers say Owens is a family man who gets his caring spirit from his parents.

Burton Officer Mike Odette nominated Owens for the award.

"Having already experienced what it is like to have someone try to take your life, Officer Owens set an example to the rest of us on how to be brave and overcome adversity," wrote Odette in a letter of recommendation.

Cynthia Schlaud presented the award to Owens on behalf of the Burton Rotary Club.

"It's an honor to receive an award from an organization that does so much for the community," Owens said.

Copyright 2007 Flint Journal

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