Teen killed in Tacoma drive-by shooting saves others by donating organs

A family is pleading for answers after their 16-year-old son died as a result of drive-by shooting in Tacoma last month. 

Tacoma Police are still searching for the individuals responsible for Wyatt Owens' death.

The teen was headed home on Jan. 15 when 911 received a call saying his white BMW crashed into a yard. The incident was called in around 5:15 p.m. by a resident off Pearl Street, who believed the teen had been shot at.

Tacoma Police believe Wyatt may have been involved in a racing or road-raging incident with a dark, four-door sedan with tinted windows. However, his father, Michael Owens, disagrees.

"Drugs weren't involved, alcohol wasn't involved, street racing wasn't involved," Owens said.

He says his son learned his lesson after one speeding ticket.

"He had a motto: ‘low and slow,'" Owens said. "He's like, ‘Man, I got a target on my back. All the cops want to give me a ticket, so I got to keep it low and slow,' so that's what he did." 

Wyatt’s parents are troubled by the unknown. 

He was at a red light, just a block away from his mom’s home, in what is usually a peaceful neighborhood where people walk their dogs, ride their bikes and enjoy the area. He was heading to his mom's to pick up clothes to spend the night at his dad's house.

When he was at the red light, another car pulled up next to him and shot him. 

Owens is confused as to how there's no more information or witnesses who can help crack the case.

"The gun violence is out of control," Owens said. "It should have never happened. I don't want to say just him, but it should never happen at 5 o'clock in the afternoon."  

He was home when he says he got the call from Pierce County officials.

"It's a call that no parent wants," Owens said.

The father says at least one bullet struck Wyatt in the back of the head. 

"I rushed to the hospital, and we knew that it wasn't survivable," Owens said.


Suspect sought in deadly drive-by shooting of teen in Tacoma

Detectives with Tacoma Police are looking for information on a suspect or suspects involved in the deadly shooting of a 16-year-old boy last week. 

A painful realization, for any parent. 

Owens said he and Wyatt both worked at Bulletproof Everyone, a bulletproof clothing and accessory company and made his son drive with a bulletproof shield on his seat for his protection. The shield did not extend to his head.

The 16-year-old's life cut shot but his legacy lives on.

"He donated his organs and from what we know, he helped save seven people. He also did his skin grafts and helped some veterans out," Owens said.

The teen honored both his parents in doing so: his mother is currently serving in the Air Force and his dad is an Army veteran. 

His dad says it’s who he’s always been.

When he was 11-year-old, he says his son saved a 4-year-old boy from drowning at American Lake. Wyatt ran 60 yards or so after the boy fell in the water.

He was always lending a helping hand to anyone who needed it.

"I'm going to miss that-- where he just puts his arm around somebody and goes, 'Hey, man, it's going to be okay, we'll figure it out.'" Owens said.

Owens, a disabled vet, had an opportunity not many have: spending time with their children.

"When he wasn't working, we were working on his car or we were fishing, we were riding dirt bikes. We were always together," Owens said. 

He said his son wanted to join the military and follow in both his parents' footsteps. He worked on base and is survived by his two sisters, 19 and 22-years-old.

"We miss him so deeply," Owens said.

The grieving father is alarmed by the growing gun violence impacting teens. He firmly believes current laws need to be enforced. Police in this case responded quickly, but even then, he says Wyatt's death couldn't have been prevented.

"Protect your children, protect your kids. Know where they're at and let them know that they are loved," Owens said. "That's the key, let them know that they are loved. So if any tragic thing happens, you will know that they know they are loved."

Wyatt’s family is fearful of retaliation, and to prevent anyone being a target, they’re opting not to have a celebration of life, unless those responsible for his death are arrested.

Tacoma Police continue investigating and ask if you have any surveillance footage or information related to the shooting to contact Crime Stoppers. You can get up to $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest. All tips can remain anonymous. Call 1-800-222-TIPS or by using the P3 Tips app.