Family of handcuffed man fatally shot expresses sorrow, relief after officer charged

The family of a handcuffed man shot and killed by a Maryland police officer expressed outrage and sorrow as the officer appeared in court Wednesday facing criminal charges.

Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Police Department, was charged with second-degree murder Tuesday in the death of William Green, 43, of Washington, D.C.

Owen allegedly shot Green seven times as the man sat handcuffed behind his back in the front seat of a police cruiser Monday night. Police Chief Hank Stawinski announced the murder and related charges a day later.

“They shot my son and it’s not right,” Green’s mother, Brenda Green, told WJLA-TV.

“Please tell me what could he have done to cause someone to draw a gun and fire, not once, multiple times?” the man’s fiancee, Sandra Mathis, told WRC-TV.

More on case: Maryland cop charged with murder after shooting handcuffed man in police car, chief says

Mathis told the TV station she was relieved after charges against Owen were announced. “I feel like justice will be served even though I’m hurting,” she said. “I don’t want this to happen to nobody. It’s a nightmare.”

Owen, 31, was denied bond Wednesday after Judge Robert Heffron Jr. said he found convincing evidence Owen posed a danger to the community, The Associated Press reported. 

Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. was charged with second-degree murder. (Photo: Prince George's County Police)

“I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime,” Stawinski told reporters Tuesday. The police chief said he could not provide a “reasonable explanation” for the events.

Stawinski said it was “unprecedented” for the department to bring such charges against an officer so quickly. In his news conference, Stawinski also corrected information police provided earlier.

Owen and another officer were responding to a traffic accident Monday in Temple Hills, a suburb of Washington, when they approached Green, who police say struck another vehicle.

Christina Cotterman, a spokeswoman for the police department, told reporters immediately after the shooting that officers had smelled PCP and suspected Green was under the influence.

Stawinski later said PCP does not appear to be involved in the case.

Cotterman also said the officers called for a drug recognition expert and placed Green, handcuffed behind his back, in the front seat of the cruiser. 

Stawinski said police were not certain whether Green had on a seat belt.

Citing a police report, The Associated Press reported that investigators did not find evidence of a struggle between Owen and Green. 

Green died at an area hospital after the officers attempted life-saving measures, police said in a statement.

Green was placed in the front seat of the cruiser in accordance with department policy because Owen’s vehicle did not have a partition separating the front and back seats, police said.

Owen was not wearing a body camera because he had not been issued one, police said. Authorities were looking for video from the area.

Deborah Jeon, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, criticized the department for not having all officers wear body cameras as “completely unacceptable.”

“Once again, a Black man – William Green – has been killed needlessly by officers with the Prince George’s County Police Department,” Jeon said in a statement. 

Green’s killing was not the first shooting in which Owen was involved.

In 2011, Owen fatally shot a man who pointed a gun at him, WRC-TV reported. Owen, in uniform and coming home from a department event, had stopped to help the man, who was on the ground, when the man pulled the gun, the TV station reported.

In 2009, Owen shot at a person who allegedly tried to rob him at his home, The Washington Post reported. Owen was also shot at but not wounded, and he fired back at the person who fled.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said at the news conference that there would be a “thorough investigation” into the case and that a grand jury would be convened.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said she directed the chief to conduct an independent review of his department’s training practices and methods.

Contributing: Joel Shannon

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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