Trial set for Rochester man accused of killing panhandler

The shooting was reported at 5:19 p.m. Sept. 3 at the McDonald’s on Old Highway 99 Southwest in Grand Mound.
The shooting was reported at 5:19 p.m. Sept. 3 at the McDonald’s on Old Highway 99 Southwest in Grand Mound. Thurston County Sheriff's Office via Facebook

Editor’s note: This trial was originally confirmed for Nov. 12 and has been pushed back. The new, tentative trial date is Jan. 6, 2020, according to the county prosecuting attorney’s office.

A Rochester man accused of shooting and killing a panhandler outside the McDonald’s near Grand Mound is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 12.

Bryan M. Owens, 59, is charged with second-degree murder while armed with a firearm and has been held without bail at the Thurston County Jail since Sept. 4.

Between then and now, letters from the family and friends of both Owens and the man who died, 37-year-old Corey Meyer, have been filed with the court.

Owens’s loved ones insist in their letters he’s a compassionate man who would never shoot someone unless his life was in danger.

Meyer’s insist he was a good man who did not deserve to die.

What happened the evening of Sept. 3

According to a prosecutor’s statement supporting probable cause for the charges against Owens:

A witness said Owens walked up to a man and asked him if he was a panhandler and if he was “a pedophile.”

Owens and the man started arguing, the witness said, and that’s when Meyer got involved. According to one witness, Owens said “You are not welcome here” and “we don’t want you here.”

Owens and Meyer then started physically fighting.

Two people allegedly tried to break it up. Witnesses say Meyer rushed at Owens, and Owens then fired two shots at Meyer.

Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock told The Olympian Meyer died of gunshot wounds to his head and chest.

Neither Owens nor witnesses saw a weapon in Meyer’s hands, according to court records.

Thurston County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the McDonald’s on Old Highway 99 and found Meyer lying on his back with blood on his shirt. Owens was standing by a car with a gun on its hood. He told a deputy he was “the only person that did any shooting.”

In an interview with law enforcement, Owens said he had never met either of the two men before.

“Owens stated that he observed a homeless man panhandling in front of the Grand Mound McDonald’s and decided he needed to contact him and find out why he was there,” the statement reads.

He said Meyer spat on him at one point, and that he told Meyer he had a gun and to stay back. He said Meyer lunged at him before he fired the first shot.

What family and friends say about the man on trial

Court documents show Owens will rely on the defenses of self-defense and resistance of a felony at trial, and that he had no prior criminal history.

Kevin Griffin, Owens’s public defender, filed a request to release Owens on his own recognizance or reduce bond to roughly $10,000, which the court denied.

Griffin also filed letters supporting Owens’s character for the court to consider.

In the letters, loved ones describe Owens as a father of seven, a grandfather to 15, a host to more than 30 exchange students, a veteran, a devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and an active volunteer who often helped the homeless.

“He truly is a remarkable person and those that know him will tell you the same,” his wife, Debbie Owens, wrote.

What family and friends say about the man who died

Letters from Meyer’s family and friends were filed in response to Owens’s motion. They piece together a picture of a father who is dearly missed.

Meyer was from Texas. He wasn’t homeless, one letter read, but he would travel to northern states and pick up work where it was cooler during summer. Another letter reads that Meyer “struggled with drug issues” but was “a sweet and loving person.”

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office believes Meyer had only been in the area for a week before he died Sept. 3, according to The Olympian’s previous reporting.

“He was not some nameless, faceless bum that didn’t matter,” Meyer’s step-sister Tiffanie Copeland wrote. “Corey was a person and our family member that we loved dearly.”

Why Meyer’s sister questions Owens’ compassion

In her letter, Meyer’s twin sister, Kristi, wrote that she found a photo of Owens holding a sign with the words “P.S.A. This man is not a vet and is not homeless!! He is a fraud, drug addict, and a registered sex offender!!”

“He was not kind and didn’t help ALL homeless people as his family portrays,” Kristi Meyer wrote. “He targeted and bullied them.”

What Meyer found aligns with part of a Sheriff’s Office report obtained by The Olympian.

According to the report, Owens told a detective his son had given money to a panhandler in Grand Mound about three years ago. He said that, in his own research, he found the panhandler wasn’t a veteran and was a “pedophile.”

He said he confronted the panhandler and made a sign saying the man was a fraud. He told the detective that about a year ago, he found the same panhandler and confronted him again, “telling him he wasn’t welcome and needed to leave.”

“Talking with Mr. Owens it was obvious that he had his own issues and concerns with the homeless people in the Grand Mound area and has been taking it upon himself to try and address the issue,” the detective’s report reads.

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