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Maryland’s Prince George’s County to Pay $20 Million to Family of Man Killed By Officer While Handcuffed

A Maryland county in suburban Washington has agreed to pay $20 million to the family of a Black man killed by police earlier this year in what may be the largest one-time settlement involving a police killing in the nation’s history.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks announced at a news conference on Sept. 23 that the family of William Green will receive the historic settlement.

Green, 43, was killed on Jan. 23 by Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr, as he sat handcuffed in a police cruiser. Authorities say Green was shot six times. Owen was suspended after the shooting and has been charged with second degree murder.

“On the evening of January 27, 2020, I received a phone call that I will never forget,” said Alsobrooks. “The phone call came in and said that one of our police officers had shot and killed a gentleman who was seated in the front seat of a police cruiser, that he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, that he was unarmed and that he had been shot six times.”

Alsobrooks said that a team of use-of-force experts re-enacted the events that led up to the shooting and determined that it was not possible that Green could have tried to control Owen’s gun.

Within 24 hours of the shooting, Owen was arrested and charged with murder by the police department. She said it was the first time in the history of the county that an officer was charged with murder for killing someone in the line of duty.

William Green. (Photo: WUSA9/YouTube screenshot)

“Police are given by this community an awesome and tremendously difficult responsibility of protecting life,” Alsobrooks said at the news conference. “They are also likewise given an authority that is not shared by anyone else in this community — and that is the authority to take life. . . . When that trust is abused, it is necessary to take swift and decisive action.”

Alsobrooks also said she is aware that the settlement will not bring Green back, but described it as “accepting responsibility.”

“I agree with County Executive Alsobrooks that this historic settlement shows that the Black life of William Green and the Black lives of his grieving mother, son and daughter truly matter,” said the family’s attorney William H. Murphy to The Washington Post.

In 2015, Murphy also represented and secured a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray, who died in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department.

On the evening of the shooting, Owen responded to a call about a person driving a Buick who had struck several vehicles. Owen removed Green from the car, handcuffed him and put him in the front seat of the police cruiser while waiting for a drug recognition expert to arrive on the scene.

Minutes later, Owen fired seven shots, seven of which struck Green while he was handcuffed in the cruiser. Owen said Green tried to gain control of his gun, but use-of-force experts disputed the claim, and there was no sign of a struggle. Green, a father of two, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital. Owen was not wearing a body camera.

Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. (Photo: WUSA9/YouTube screenshot)

“Please tell me what could he have done to cause someone to draw a gun and fire, not once, multiple times?” questioned Green’s fiancée, Sandra Mathis, after the shooting.

Owen killed another man in 2011. He said the man was lying on the ground, and that he tried to help him, but the man pulled a gun. Owen then fatally shot him. A loaded handgun was found at the scene.

The 10-year veteran of the police department is set to go to trial in March on second-degree murder charges for killing Green.

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