City officials suspended Owens without pay on Thursday and Friday, according to Mayor George James.
“He created a hostile work environment for his employees by his actions,” James said. “He hindered the operation of recovering the two escapees.”
Owens had no comment.
Michael Alexander Davis, 24, of Augusta, and Joshua Michael Gray, 21, of Grovetown, were arrested July 25 for misdemeanor probation and traffic offenses. They were discovered to be missing from their jail cellblock at the department’s detention center about 8:20 p.m.
Owens said after the escape that a jailer didn’t properly close a door leading from the block to the yard. The men took off their jail-issue jumpsuits, got into the yard, and manipulated fencing and poles to escape.
“His department had everything under control and was doing everything possible to recover the two men who escaped,” James said. “When Chief Owens arrived on the scene, it became pure chaos. As the chief, he needs to make sure he is in control of himself so he can take control of the situation. In this case, he was not in control of himself or the operation.”
James said officers were delayed from obtaining warrants until more than five hours after the escape. The men, who ran to Gray’s mother’s Grovetown home, were caught the next morning trying to check into a motel in Augusta.
During an internal investigation into the escape, several of Owens’ staffers came forward with accusations of his creating a hostile work environment, James said.