Police Abuse

Murder Charges for Maryland Cop Who Shot Handcuffed Man in Police Car

Prince George's County had started a pilot program to fit officers with body cameras five years ago, but never set aside the money to expand.


Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. (Prince Georges County Police)

A Maryland police officer is facing murder, manslaughter, and other charges related to the mysterious shooting death of an unarmed, handcuffed man who was seated in his police cruiser last week.

Prince George's County, Maryland, Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., 31, was charged last week for killing William Green, 43, inside his police car. Green had been picked up in the evening January 27, in response to a 911 call that Green, while driving, had struck several vehicles.

According to the police, officers suspected Green was high, possibly on PCP, and had been (according to department procedure) handcuffed and put on the passenger side of the police vehicle, restrained, while police waited to hear from a drug recognition expert. Owen was sitting in the driver's seat, and, under unclear circumstances, pulled out his gun and shot Green seven times.

Owen was not wearing a body camera, and most police officers in Prince George's County do not wear cameras. Some eyewitnesses recorded Green's arrest on a phone camera that may be viewed here, but the recording stops before Green is shot. There was plenty of outrage to go around not just about the mysteriousness of Green's shooting but the fact that the county has thus far resisted efforts to put cameras on officers.

It looks like change may be in the air. In a press conference last week announcing the charges, Police Chief Hank Stawinski bluntly said that he could not offer a "reasonable explanation" for why Owens might have opened fire on Green. Stawinski said the official story that Green might have been on PCP doesn't appear supported, Green might not have been wearing a seat belt, and he can't corroborate any stories of a struggle.

Only about 80 officers of the county's 1,500 total officers have body cameras (even though the county made a big deal out of launching a pilot program for body cameras five years ago). According to The Washington Post, the issue has been funding. The chief says he supports body cameras. Many County Council members support body cameras, but efforts to mandate it for all officers have run into funding problems. The budget for 2020 has $1.2 million to cover 1,000 officers' body cameras. In the wake of Green's death, a council member is promising to reintroduce a bill to mandate cops wear cameras.

Owen has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, and other weapons charges. The Post notes that he's been involved in two other shootings, one fatal. More details from those shootings can be found here.