PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. – Prince George’s County Police arrested one of their own and booked him for murder Tuesday, saying he fired seven shots at a man who was handcuffed behind his back in the front seat of a patrol unit.
According to law enforcement authorities, Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., shot 43-year-old William Howard Green seven times in the police cruiser in Temple Hills around 8 p.m. Monday, reported the New York Post.
Police Chief Hank Stawinski announced the charges less than a day after the incident, following the department’s investigation. Stawinski said bringing such serious charges against an officer within 24 hours of an incident is “unprecedented” for the department.
“What happened last night is a crime,” said Chief Stawinski at a news conference, adding he was unable to provide a “reasonable explanation” for the incident.
Officers had responded to reports that a driver had hit multiple vehicles in Temple Hills, said department spokeswoman Christina Cotterman.
As a result, Green was taken into custody.
Police initially reported Green may have been under the influence of PCP, a hallucinogenic that has been associated with violent behavior, and that there was a struggle inside the cruiser before Green’s death, The Washington Post reported.
However, Stawinski said PCP does not appear to have been involved. Moreover, the agency could not corroborate an account by witnesses of a struggle in the police unit. Green may not have been strapped in with seat belt in as initially reported, Stawinski said.
Green’s death was not caught on a body camera, prompting an outcry from Green’s family, advocates and some county officials.
“We have a lot of questions,” said John Mathis, whose mother was engaged to Green.
According to The Washington Post, the agency has more than 1,500 officers, but is limited to 80 body cameras.
Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. is in custody and awaiting a bond hearing, Stawinski said. He is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and associated weapons charges.
State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy said a grand jury will be convened in the case and pledged a thorough investigation.
Green’s family hired Baltimore attorney William “Billy” Murphy to represent them. Murphy represented the family of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died in April 2015 after being injured while in police custody.
“I have seen a lot of horrible fatal police shootings, but this one is in the top 10,” Murphy said in an interview.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D) said she has asked Stawinski to review training practices for officers.
“There is absolutely nothing that is acceptable about this incident,” Alsobrooks said.
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