An Arkansas State football player was shot and killed on Wednesday night during a robbery in his hometown of Jackson, Tenn., the Red Wolves confirmed on Thursday.
According to a report from the The Jackson Sun, Markel Owens, a junior defensive lineman, was shot and killed along with his stepfather, Johnny Shivers, during the robbery. Jackson Police Department Capt. Tyreece Milller told the Sun that Owens attempted to defend his family from a group of men who had followed them home.
“I think Mr. Owens had just arrived home minutes before this happened,” Miller said. “After interviewing the witnesses about what happened, we believe there was an initial struggle between Shivers and one of the men. We believe Owens attempted to protect his family or defend his mother and stepfather. He could have perhaps saved his mother’s life."
Owens' mother was also shot, but was treated and released on Wednesday night from Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, the report states.
Investigators have learned that Shivers was arriving home when he was rushed by two masked men and forced inside the apartment. The robbers demanded money, and a struggle ensued. Owens and his mother were inside the apartment. During the struggle, Owens helped Shivers and began fighting one of the men. Shivers and Owens were both shot during the struggle, police said.
Police have said they believe the robbers were targeting Shivers and that marijuana was found inside Shivers' home.
Owens was a three-year letterman at Arkansas State. He appeared in 11 games last season, making four tackles, including one for loss. In a statement, Red Wolves athletic director Terry Mohajir said the university is mourning his loss.
“Our worst fears were realized as an athletics department after being notified early this morning about the unfortunate news about Markel,” said Mohajir. “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.”
Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson said Owens was a big part of the program.
“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,” said Anderson. “We are doing everything possible to comfort his teammates, and we extend our compassion to his family during this difficult time.”According to a report from KARK Channel 4 News in Little Rock, Ark., the investigation into the murders is ongoing. "Police say the only suspect information they have is that the two masked men were black and that they possibly left in the scene in a white Honda Civic," the report states.