Good Samaritan and local hero Joshua Owen, of Kansas City, Mo., was presented the Carnegie Medal during a Shawnee City Council meeting Monday for defending the lives a young mother and her infant almost 18 months ago.
Owen, 34, was walking through a Walmart parking lot Sept. 11, 2016, in Shawnee when he heard screams for help and sprang into action. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds — to the face, wrist and chest — while fighting off the woman and her 8-month-old child’s attackers
“When I heard her scream, I could have walked away, stood as a spectator, or walked toward her to protect her,” Owen recalled. “I walked toward her, but the situation was much more severe than I actually thought. A lot of people will walk away. Putting your life at risk is a defining moment. It takes a sense of compassion and morals to do the right thing.”
In shielding the mother and child from harm, Owen, a construction worker and U.S. Air Force veteran, suffered life-threatening wounds as Shawnee Police Sergeant Craig Hermann, the then-detective who was among the first to arrive on the scene after Owen was shot, quickly discovered.
“He was in bad shape,” Hermann said. “I thought he was going to make the ultimate sacrifice that day, and I’m so glad he didn’t. People generally run to help, run to get help, or run away. Joshua was one of the few who ran to help.”
Hermann, the crime’s lead investigator, received a letter and questionnaire about Owen from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission within three weeks after the incident as the story received national attention.
The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission recognizes civilians “who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree saving or attempting to save the lives of others,” and also provides financial assistance for those disabled in their efforts or for dependents of those killed helping others.
Andrew Carnegie established the Commission in response to a massive coal-mine disaster in 1904 to recognize acts of civilian heroism. That led to the 21-member panel, which has doled out more than 10,000 Carnegie Medals to “heroes of civilization” during nearly 115 years.
“Their vetting process is pretty serious,” Hermann said. “The term ‘hero’ gets thrown around lightly these days, but the folks on this commission are in the hero business and they have some very high standards.”
As the Carnegie commission completed its inquiry, Owen worked to regain his health — a six-month journey of physical recovery in addition to recovering from the mental and emotional trauma of the shooting.
“It was a real trauma and it took time to get used to the effects,” Owen said. “The police and city got me a therapist and I found this was very important to get through it — to talk to someone who could give me a different perspective.”
Owen learned Dec. 19, nearly 16 months after that fateful moment of bravery, that he would be awarded the Carnegie Medal. He’s done of lot of reflecting since that morning, which actually started with a simple errand to pick up some bug spray for his father.
“Coming here today was hard, accepting something of this significance,” Owen said. “It’s very humbling and overwhelming. A lot of people receive this award after they’ve lost their lives serving their fellow man. I was lucky enough to survive.”
Approximately 20 percent of Carnegie Medals are awarded posthumously.
“I think about this and wonder if there is something greater that will come of it in my life,” Owen said. “You hope something better can come of it. I also wonder about how willing people are to help their fellow man or will they walk away.”
Owen’s father, Michael, and his daughter, Halle, were on hand for the ceremony.
“I’m proud as hell of my son,” Michael said, “but it doesn’t surprise me he did what he did.”
One of the attackers in the Walmart incident, Arthur Fred Wyatt III, plead guilty to attempted murder and other charges last August.
The second attacker, John W. Simmons III, was shot and killed at the scene by a second Good Samaritan who came to the defense of Owen, the woman and her child.