AVON PARK -- On Tuesday, June 20, 2023 at approximately 7:45 a.m., deputies with the
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office were involved in an officer-involved shooting.
The shooting took the life of 31-year-old Matthew Dillon Owens. No deputies were injured as
a result of the shooting. This investigation is in the very early stages and information can
change as evidence is located.
During the early morning hours of June 20, at approximately 4:57 a.m., deputies attempted to
conduct a traffic stop on a blue Dodge pickup truck driven by Owens, who refused to stop the
vehicle and led law enforcement on a chase from Highlands County into Hardee County then
back into Highlands.
Owens crashed the truck into a citrus grove just south of Old Bombing Range Road in the
Avon Park area, then fled on foot through the grove.
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Teams responded to the area and located Owens
approximately a quarter mile from the vehicle, hiding in the top of a tree approximately 25 feet
off the ground.
At this point, deputies gave Owens verbal commands to come out of the tree, and he refused.
Deputies could see something in Owens’ hand, and commanded him to drop it. Again, Owens
refused to follow commands. Owens then pointed the object at deputies, who fired their
weapons, striking Owens.
Owens was removed from the tree and immediately given medical attention. At approximately
8:30 a.m., he was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Owens was very aware he was wanted by law enforcement. On the evening of Sunday, June
18, Owens fled from law enforcement in Highlands and Hardee counties and then again on
Monday June 19, he fled law enforcement in the St. Lucie County area.
Owens had several active warrants for his arrest, which included two counts of capital sexual
battery, one count of lewd molestation of a child under 13 years of age, and felony domestic
As is the policy of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office, this deputy-involved shooting will be
investigated by the 10th Judicial Circuit Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force.