Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. was identified as police officer who is accused of murder for shooting a handcuffed man inside a Prince George’s County squad car in Maryland.
Police previously called the death of William Green a “fatal officer-involved shooting.” However, now they’re calling it murder.
The police chief announced that Owen has been charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and associated weapons charges in connection with the death of Green.
Police wrote early on, “We are on scene of an officer-involved shooting in Temple Hills on Winston Street. We are gathering information and will share once confirmed.” In an earlier news conference, Prince George’s County Police Department spokeswoman Christina Cotterman said that authorities are investigating to figure out exactly what happened inside the officer’s car. However, several details police initially gave out were not corroborated or changed.
The shooting occurred on the evening of January 27, 2020.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Police Chief says He Can’t Give the Community a ‘Reasonable Explanation’ for Green’s Death
It all started with the suspect allegedly striking multiple cars, and police suspected controlled substances were involved. However, Police Chief Hank Stawinski said in a press conference: “I am unable to come to our community and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” referring to the shooting death that came shortly after. He also said that police no longer think Green was using PCP.
“I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime,” said the chief.
At 8 p.m. police received a 911 call for a report of a driver, a man, who had struck multiple vehicles, said Cotterman.
Officers found the driver in question. They immediately believed he might be under the influence. They smelled what they believed was PCP coming from the car, according to the earlier statement from Cotterman, who reiterated, “He struck multiple vehicles.” That statement came before Stawinski said further information didn’t bear out the PCP angle.
The police handcuffed the driver and put him in the front seat of a cruiser. They seatbelted him in, Cotterman said initially. They called a drug recognition expert to come to the scene. Stawinski also said in the news conference that they’re not sure if Green was in a seatbelt.
2. Owen Previously Fatally Shot a Man
According to CBS Baltimore, in 2011, Owen fatally shot a 35 year old man. The station reports that the story given was that Owen had just left a Toys for Tots event at the police station when he encountered Rodney Edwards lying on the side of the road. Owen shot Edwards after Edwards pointed a gun at him when he stopped to help, the story went.
In the Green death, the preliminary information from police was that a struggle erupted inside the cruiser.
An officer got into the driver’s seat of the cruiser. The suspect was handcuffed and seatbelted into the passenger seat at this point, police initially claimed.
“Two independent witnesses tell our investigators that they see a struggle or hear a struggle of some sort coming from the cruiser and they hear loud bangs,” said Cotterman in the first news conference. However, in the second, the chief said officers haven’t been able to corroborate that.
Green was struck multiple times by the officer’s duty weapon, Cotterman confirmed.
The man was sitting there with his hands behind his back, she added. Asked if there was a struggle for the officer’s weapon, she said that this is what authorities are trying to figure that out.
3. Green Was Shot Seven Times, Police Say
Police now say Green was shot seven times. Officers got their trauma kits out immediately and “tried to attempt life-saving measures on the suspect,” said Cotterman.
He was rushed to a local hospital and died a short time later.
Again, police said they are investigating to piece together what unfolded.
“We are at the very beginning of what is going to be a very complex investigation into exactly what happened inside that cruiser. That’s the crux of what we’re going to be looking at,” she said.
“We are determined to find out what happened inside that cruiser,” she said.
4. The Officer Wasn’t Wearing a Body Cam
Video footage is always useful in a case like this, but no body camera was activated because the officer wasn’t assigned one, police say. The shooting was not caught on body camera, and police said they are scouring the area for other potential video footage to further illuminate what happened inside the cruiser.
5. The Officer, Who Is on Administrative Leave, Is a 10-Year Veteran
The officer was on administrative leave, which is standard operating procedure whenever there is a discharge of a firearm, according to Cotterman.
Police say Owen has been on the police force 10 years. The ACLU of Maryland wrote of the Green shooting: “Once again, a Black man – William Green – has been killed needlessly by officers with the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD), this time in Temple Hills, MD. It is completely unacceptable. #BlackLivesMatter #PGCounty.”