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Teen's Death During Chase Drawing Fire

Teen's Death During Chase Drawing Fire

San Antonio Express-News via YellowBrix

January 19, 2010

Police acknowledged that Hardin, even though in possession of a cell phone, never called dispatchers to report the fleeing suspects or that he was following them.

Authorities said Hardin began following the truck after he saw Ethan Owen get out of the pickup at a Walmart in the 2100 block of Southeast Loop 410, yank a woman’s purse from her arm and jump into the back of the pickup.

Benavides, the police spokesman, said Hardin, who was in plain clothes, never had a chance to identify himself as a police officer and wasn’t able to access his cell phone during the four-mile chase.

He said Hardin was following the vehicle so he could read the license plate. Police have not said how fast the vehicles were going.

“When the off-duty officer was close enough to see the license plate, he was confronted with the threat on his life,” Benavides said in an e-mail. “He saw the suspect was pointing a shotgun at him, then heard a boom.”

Police said neither Hardin nor his SUV were hit, but they did find a spent shell casing in the shotgun’s barrel.

It was after the boom that Eric Owen lost control of the truck, crashing into a retaining wall.

“It just all sounds kinda odd,” said Norman Owen, who retired from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office about 15 years ago.

Preliminarily, Benavides said, it appears Hardin acted appropriately.

Mike Helle, president of the San Antonio Police Officers Association, agrees.

“He witnessed a robbery, and if that officer had not continued to follow him, he certainly would have escaped,” Helle said.

The San Antonio Police Department’s general manual addresses pursuits when officers are on duty, but actions of off-duty officers are not mentioned other than in a section called “duty to take action.”

Even while off-duty, police officers are charged with the responsibility to “protect lives and property,” the manual states, and must take action if they see a felony occur. “The officer reacted to the situation,” said Chief William McManus, who did not discuss the incident further, citing the open investigation.

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