LOS ANGELES – As hundreds gathered at a vigil for fallen officer Sgt. Steve Owen, former partner Deputy Sheriff Jamie Hamill -- 2,500 miles away in Virginia -- reeled from the news of his sudden death.
Hamill was on duty in Powhatan when she learned Owen, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, had been fatally shot while responding to a burglary.
"I was on patrol, so I just pulled over -- and I mean, I was crying,” Hamill said.
Owen and another deputy responded in separate vehicles to a burglary call, made in the early afternoon. The deputy heard gunfire come from the rear of the home and ran around back to find Owen shot.
The other deputy ran after the fleeing shooter and fired, but the gunman jumped into Owen's patrol vehicle, put it into reverse and rammed the deputy's vehicle. The deputy fired again and the shooter took off on foot.
A two-hour search ensued before the suspect was taken into custody.
Owen's wife, a sheriff's arson/explosives detective, was able to get the hospital before he died, according to affiliates KTLA. His adult children, as well as his mother, were also able to get to the hospital.
Hamill worked out west with Owens for three years, in the mounted unit in the Lancaster station.
"Everybody had a lot of respect for him,” Hamill recalled.
Owen, 53, worked within a smaller division of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, where the officers developed close friendships.
"I really loved the mounted unit- we were very, very close,” Hamill said.
It's why Hamill was devastated when she learned a last minute plane ticket from Virginia to California would cost her a thousand dollars.
Any hope of attending Owen's funeral seemed impossible until Hamill finally reached out to Jet Blue.
"I said I need to fly out to LA for a funeral of a fallen officer that I knew who was killed in the line of duty,” she said.
Hamill said she simply hoped for a bereavement rate, but instead Jet Blue offered her a free round trip ticket.
"I was like what free?” she said. “I never asked -- I didn't want free -- I was just hoping for a little discount.”
“I immediately starting getting choked up and thanked her a thousand times; I was just speechless,” Hamill said. “I didn't know what to say."
On Thursday, Oct. 13, Hamill was able to stand alongside her former colleagues for a final goodbye; law enforcement personnel from more than 65 agencies, some who traveled from as far away as New York, were in attendance.
"I’m one person in millions,” Hamill said, but thanks to a simple act of kindness, "they changed something, they did something for me that I’m never going to forget."
Hamill said that in a time when wearing a badge has never seemed more dangerous, Jet Blue's kind gesture served as an important reminder.
"Law enforcement just isn't a job where you put on your clothes and go to work,” Hamill said. It's in your soul…you know.”
“I'll always keep going no matter what happens,” she said.
The 27-year-old suspect, parolee Trenton Trevon Lovell, has been charged with capital murder of Owen.
Owen is survived by his wife Tania, adult sons Brandon and Chad, stepdaughter Shannon and mother Millie.