To hear Prince George’s Police Chief Hank Stawinski tell it, it was a case so egregious, the department had to act quickly.
Stawinski announced Tuesday night that Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. had been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and weapons charges for shooting and killing William Howard Green, who was handcuffed in the front seat of Owen’s police cruiser.
As WTOP reports, Chief Stawinski said the “unprecedented” events that took place in Owen’s car Monday night required an unprecedented response.
“I am unable to come to our community and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” the chief told reporters.
“I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime,” said Stawinski, according to the New York Times. “There are no circumstances under which this outcome is acceptable.”
The shooting happened Monday night near the Temple Hills neighborhood, where police responded to calls that a driver struck multiple vehicles. Green was arrested at the scene and was placed in the front passenger seat of Owen’s police cruiser as they waited for a drug recognition officer to test Green. At around 8 pm, Stawinski told reporters, Owen shot Green seven times.
One witness told NBC News 4 Green was in the squad car “maybe 25, 30 minutes max,” before he was shot.
Stawinski corrected previous reports about the shooting, which is currently being investigated. On Tuesday, a police spokeswoman said that officers believed Green, a 43-year-old Southeast D.C. resident, was under the influence of PCP. Police initially arrested Green after responding to reports about a driver striking multiple vehicles near Temple Hills.
Stawinski said police no longer believe PCP was involved.
Investigators were also unable to corroborate that a struggle ensued in the cruiser before Green was shot, or whether he was wearing a seatbelt at the time.
Still, what police know is enough to charge Owen, a 10-year-veteran of Prince George’s County police, with murder.
This is not the first time Owen, who is black, fatally shot a person. According to WTOP, Owen shot and killed Rodney Edwards in 2011 in Palmer Park. Owens was leaving a police Toys for Tots event when he came upon Edwards on the side of the road.
“Owen went to assist him but then Edwards pointed a gun at him,” writes WTOP. “Owen shot and killed him.”
Owen was placed on administrative leave immediately following Monday’s shooting and taken into custody on Tuesday. He will likely have a bond hearing in the next few days.
Meanwhile, Green’s family and loved ones are reeling from the shocking loss.
“Since the day he was born he was the most gentle, sweetest, kindest,” Green’s cousin Juanita Sharma told the Times on Tuesday. “He loved his mother and he loved his family.”
Speaking to NBC News 4, Green’s fiancée was outraged.
“Please tell me what could he have done to cause someone to draw a gun and fire, not once, multiple times?” she said. “Kill him on the spot.”
The local television station also obtained video showing cops pulling Green out of the cruiser, his hands still cuffed behind his back.
“They dragged him out and left him on the ground,” said his fiancee. “He’s still in handcuffs with his hands behind his back. They didn’t even have the decency to take the handcuffs off.”