A police officer in Maryland was charged with murder after authorities say he shot an unarmed man seven times while he had him handcuffed inside his police cruiser.
Prince George’s County Police Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. is also facing manslaughter and associated weapons charges in the fatal shooting of 43-year-old William Howard Green in Temple Hills, Maryland, police said.
“I’m unable to come to our community this evening and provide you with a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski told reporters. “I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime.”
Monday, Owen and another officer responded to reports of a car slamming into parked vehicles, CNN affiliate WJLA reported, citing a police spokeswoman.
The officers found Green — the car’s driver — and handcuffed him. They believed he was “under the influence of a substance” and called for “drug recognition expert,” police said in a statement.
They took Green to the front seat of Owen’s police cruiser to wait for the expert, police said.
The officer then got into the driver’s seat of his cruiser and some time later, police say, “Green was shot seven times by the officer’s duty weapon.”
After the shooting, Owen and the other officer took Green out of the cruiser and offered him aid. He was then taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
It’s unclear what led to the shooting. Authorities did not discuss what the other officer was doing during the incident.
Owen was arrested Tuesday afternoon and is awaiting a bond hearing. He has been with the police department for 10 years and was assigned patrol duties.
It’s unclear whether he retained an attorney who could comment on the charges.
“There are no circumstances under in which this outcome is acceptable and I want to extend my heartfelt sorrow and sympathies to the Green family,” Stawinski said Tuesday.
Green’s fiancee, Sandra Mathis, questioned what harm Green could have done to the officer while restrained.
“Obviously, he didn’t resist arrest because he was in handcuffs,” she told WJLA. “His life mattered.”
Deborah Jeon, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, condemned the shooting and made a call for full transparency and accountability in the investigation.
“There is no reason why a handcuffed person should ever be shot multiple times by a police officer, let alone shot multiple times inside a patrol car. Anything short of that assessment would just demonstrate complete lack of respect for human life,” Jeon said in a statement.
Video footage of the incident is not available. The officer, unlike some officers in the police department, was not wearing a body camera, Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks told reporters.
Body cameras are not available for all patrol officers within the county police department but funding is budgeted to equip all of them in the future, Alsobrooks said.
Stawinski explained that seating individuals in the front seat of police cruisers gives officers better control of the person, and has been a practice in the department for years.
Under the department’s policy, officers can seat people in the right front or rear seat depending on whether their police cruisers have a partition. Owen’s vehicle was equipped with a partition, the department said in a statement.