The Cop Charged With Murdering A Handcuffed Man In His Police Car Previously Killed Another Man
In 2011, police officer Michael Owen fired several deadly shots at a man who pointed a gun at him.
A criminal complaint released Wednesday provided new details in the case of the Maryland police officer charged with murder after he shot a handcuffed man inside his squad car.
Michael Owen, an officer with the Prince George's County police, was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter for the death of William Green.
According to the criminal complaint, police "failed to uncover any evidence" of an alleged altercation between the men. They also said no weapons were found on Green.
Owen's record has also come under scrutiny; in 2011, he was involved in another fatal shooting but not charged.
On Monday night, Owen was among officers who responded to reports that a driver had hit several vehicles in Temple Hills, just south of Washington, DC. Upon locating the driver, police said, he seemed to be under the influence of an unknown substance. Police called for the assistance of a drug recognition expert.
Green was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and put in the passenger seat of the police car, which is standard arrest protocol, police spokesperson Christina Cotterman said. Owen then got in the driver's seat.
What happened next is not clear; according to the criminal complaint, Owen then shot Green seven times.
Lifesaving measures were attempted, and Green was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police initially told reporters that officers believed Green had been high on PCP and that some sort of altercation between him and Owen broke out inside the car.
But in a stunning reversal later Tuesday evening, Prince George's County Police Chief Henry Stawinski announced that after reviewing details of the incident he was unable to provide a "reasonable explanation" for why Green was fatally shot.
"I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime," Stawinski said in his announcement that Owen would face criminal charges.
The police chief's announcement marked a dramatic departure from what was previously believed to have transpired.
It also stood apart from typical cases of police killings, for which charges are rare and often only come about weeks or months afterward amid intense public pressure and media scrutiny.
In a statement about Green's killing, the ACLU criticized the fact that Owen was not equipped with a body camera. They noted that Prince George's County police officers shot two other black men in September and October, also while not wearing body cameras.
"It is absolutely senseless for full transparency to not be a number one priority for this department," the ACLU said. "It should have been a top priority years ago, but these recent tragic events only make this need more urgent."
The organization added, "These deaths are completely preventable. Police characterize them as unavoidable, but they are not. And body camera footage will show that."
It was not immediately clear whether Owen has retained a lawyer, and police could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Green's family has expressed their grief and confusion over why their loved one was shot to death.
"I can’t understand why you had him in the car seat, seatbelt down, handcuffed, and then they shoot him? For what reason? What could he possibly do?” his mother, Brenda Green, told Fox 5 DC.
A woman who identified herself as Green's cousin tweeted that she "will fight with the last breath in me for justice." She remembered him as "a family man, a working man" who was funny and loving.
Green is not the first person Owen has shot and killed while on the job, according to local reports. In 2011, Owen fired several shots at 35-year-old Rodney Edwards, killing him.
After leaving a Toys for Tots charity event, Owen found Edwards lying on the ground in Palmer Park, Maryland, the Washington Post reported at the time.
Owen, who was wearing his police uniform and driving an unmarked van, reportedly approached the man to help him.
Edwards threatened Owen with a loaded gun, and Owen responded by shooting him several times, said Kevin Davis, assistant Prince George’s County police chief. Edwards' gun was recovered at the scene.
Davis told reporters at the time that it was unclear what Edwards' "state of mind" was during the incident, but added that his relatives suggested he may have been drunk.
Though Owen was placed on administrative leave over the 2011 incident, he never faced charges and the killing was ruled justified, WJLA reported.
In another incident in 2009, Owen exchanged gunfire with a person who attempted to rob him outside his home, police told the Washington Post. The robber attempted to shoot Owen, who was off duty at the time, and he shot back. Neither person was hit, the robber fled, and neither person was charged.
In an interview with the station on Tuesday, Edwards' uncle, Nathan Edwards, reacted to Green's killing.
“Even when he killed my nephew, they tried to justify it," he said. "The pieces didn't make sense."