A Maryland police officer has been charged in the shooting death Monday night of William Green, who was cuffed and sitting in the officer’s police cruiser.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski announced Tuesday that Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and weapons charges, as reported by The Washington Post. Stawinksi admitted bringing charges against an officer within less than 24 hours is “unprecedented” but he felt like it was the right thing to do. He called the move the most difficult moment of his tenure as police chief.
“I am unable to come to our community this evening and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” Stawinski said. “I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime.”
Green, 43, died on Monday night after he was taken into custody under suspicion of driving under the influence. Initial reports stated officers received calls about a person driving erratically and hitting vehicles. When officers approached Green’s car, they reportedly smelled PCP, a hallucinogenic drug. He was cuffed and placed in the front passenger seat of a police cruiser, which is standard protocol for PG County Police.
“One officer may transport one arrestee, who will occupy the right front seat. For vehicles equipped with transport partitions, arrestees will occupy the right rear seat,” police spokeswoman Christina Cotterman stated, reports the Associated Press. The cruiser on the scene did not have a partition.
According to initial reports, Owen got in the driver’s seat of the cruiser and a struggle ensued. Witnesses said they heard a loud bang and observed a struggle before Green, according to police, was shot seven times. Owen and another officer performed lifesaving measures with Green later being taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Stawinski presented details that differed from the original account. There was no evidence, he said, pointing to PCP being involved in the incident. He added that the stories collected from witnesses at the scene could not be corroborated and Green might not have been wearing a seat belt. Owen, a 10-year veteran of Prince George’s County Police, reportedly was not wearing a body camera.
This is the second time Owen has shot and killed a civilian. In December 2011, he approached a man lying on the ground on the side of a road. Owen reportedly was attempting to help the man, Rodney Edwards, when he allegedly pointed a gun at Owen, who then fired his own weapon several times.
Green’s death is still under investigation and Owen is expected in court later this week for a bond review.