In Maryland, officials for Prince George’s County have agreed to pay $20 million to the family of a man who was shot and killed by a police officer while handcuffed in a police cruiser.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Michael Owen Jr., the officer responsible for shooting William Green, has been in jail since being arrested and charged with second-degree murder in January. During a news conference on Monday, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks noted that Owen is the first officer in county history to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.
The 43-year-old Green was unarmed, handcuffed and sitting in the front seat of a police cruiser when Owen, who is Black, shot him six times. Investigators couldn’t find any evidence a struggle occurred between the two men before the shooting. This runs contrary to statements made by a police spokeswoman Christina Cotterman on the night of the shooting.
Cotterman told reporters two “independent witnesses” said they saw or heard a struggle occur in the cruiser before hearing gunshots go off. Cotterman also said that officers on the scene believed Green was under the influence of PCP, though the county police chief would later say that the drug did not appear to play a factor in the night’s events.
Owen was responding to a traffic accident and arrested Green after finding him passed out in his car, apparently under the influence of an unknown substance. Green was handcuffed and placed in the front seat of the police cruiser while they waited for a drug recognition officer to conduct a test on Green. In January, prosecutor Renee Joy said that Green complied with officers’ commands during the arrest and that he posed “absolutely no threat.”
A police report revealed that Owen fired seven shots, striking Green multiple times. There is no body-camera footage of the shooting as Owen wasn’t wearing one at the time.
A report from the Washington Post found that Owen had triggered the police department’s early-warning system months before he shot Green. Last year, Owen used force in two separate incidents that occurred shortly after one another, which set off the system. While Owen’s supervisors weren’t aware Owen had been flagged until January, they took no action in the time before the shooting.
Owen, who was a ten-year veteran of the department, had been involved in at least two prior shootings. In 2009, Owen was off-duty when someone tried to rob him outside his home. The attempted robber fired a shot at Owen that missed and Owen returned fire.
In 2011, Owen was leaving a Toys for Tots event held by the police when he came upon a man on the side of the road. The man reportedly pulled out a gun as Owen approached him, resulting in Owen shooting and killing him.
Owen’s trial date has been set for March 22, 2021.