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‘Long live Owar’: Hundreds grieve after Feb. 6 shooting death of Mead High School sophomore

UPDATED: Sun., Feb. 28, 2021

Grieving friends and family watch a slide show that included pictures of 16-year-old Owar Opiew as a child, often embracing his siblings. Opiew, a sophomore at Mead High School, was shot and killed on Feb. 6 in Spokane Valley.  (Maggie Quinlan)
Grieving friends and family watch a slide show that included pictures of 16-year-old Owar Opiew as a child, often embracing his siblings. Opiew, a sophomore at Mead High School, was shot and killed on Feb. 6 in Spokane Valley. (Maggie Quinlan)

More than 100 friends and family members gathered at Calvary Baptist Church on Saturday to honor the life of 16-year-old Owar Opiew, who was shot and killed on Feb. 6.

Owar, a Mead High School sophomore, was in Spokane Valley at a party when he was killed in what police believe might have been a gang-related shooting.

Police had not made an arrest as of Saturday.

Owar’s father, Okugn Opiew Okom, an immigrant from Ethiopia, told the group he was one of 10 children. His son was one of eight kids, and he was named after Okugn’s brother Owar, who died when he was in sixth grade.

“Among 10 kids, it’s me and my sister that survived,” Okugn said.

The name “Owar” means “someone born at night,” Okugn said. In 2004, that was the case with Owar.

“I thought that God gave that blessing to me to be with me forever, because I lost him when he was in sixth grade,” Okugn said. “I’m not mad. He is in a better place now.”

Okugn said friends from their home state of Minnesota, where Owar was born, started calling him while he was at work the day Owar died. Okugn said, of all his sons, Owar was the last he expected to be involved in anything dangerous.

“The person who took Owar’s life is still out there,” Okugn said. “He’s not going to stop with Owar. He will do it to another child.”

Okugn asked anyone who has information to call the police and get his son’s killer off the streets. He said the killer “doesn’t belong in this society.”

Oromrow “Orom” Opiew, Owar’s brother, described Owar as a curious and playful brother who expressed himself easily through dancing. He joked that Owar was a “ladies’ man,” even when he wasn’t trying to be.

“My mom isn’t here today,” Orom said. “I need all of you guys to stand up, and I got to send a video to my mom just saying, ‘Long Live Owar.’”

The group obliged.

Two pastors gave sermons and both encouraged the many young people at the service not to fall prey to depression, drugs and disassociation from God.

Pastor Sean Anderson said his mother died when he was 13 and he blamed God. He said he’d become drug-addicted before he “met Jesus.” His realization, he said, was that God was as heartbroken as he was over pain and injustice on earth.

He pointed to a Bible verse. In it, Jesus is grieving his friend Lazarus. Jesus goes to Lazarus’ body.

“And then, this is one of the most important verses that exists, and it’s only two words – ‘Jesus wept.’ Jesus wept. That’s God crying. That’s God crying over the brokenness of humanity,” Anderson said.

“Today, God is crying over the brokenness in this room. There are a lot of people here with broken hearts. There are a lot of people with questions, wondering why.”

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