An Elma man was sentenced to 18 years in prison today after he shot a customer trying to stop him from robbing a Spokane bank. Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that 35-year-old Don Charles Owens, of Elma, Washington was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice to 18 years in prison for Armed Bank Robbery and Discharge of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence. Owens pleaded guilty to these offenses on August 31, 2017.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Owens robbed a branch of Wells Fargo Bank in Spokane, Washington on April 28, 2016. Owens entered the bank shortly before 6:00 p.m. wearing a black ski mask and announced he was robbing the bank. Owens ordered the bank customers to the ground and demanded money from the bank’s customer service representatives, who complied with his directions. As he attempted to flee the bank, a customer moved to stop Owens and struggled with him. Owens produced a handgun and shot the customer twice. Owens then fled the bank leaving behind the black ski mask that the customer had pulled off Owens’ during the struggle.
Numerous law enforcement officers responded to the bank robbery but found no trace of Owens.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation later submitted Owens’ black ski mask to the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory for testing. A forensic scientist at the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory recovered DNA from the ski mask and matched the DNA from the ski mask to Owens’ DNA on file in a law enforcement DNA index.
Joseph H. Harrington stated: “Owens entered the bank armed with a loaded handgun and he was prepared to rob the bank at any cost with no regard for the lives and safety of the bank’s customers or employees. I commend the Spokane Police Department and the FBI for their tenacious resolve in the successful investigation of this case.
The sentence that Chief Judge Rice handed down today sends a strong message that egregious conduct, like that exhibited by Owens, will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Washington and will result in a lengthy sentence intended to punish the offender and protect the community.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Spokane Police Department. The case was prosecuted by James A. Goeke, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.