A Maryland cop is facing a murder charge after allegedly firing seven shots at a handcuffed man who was seated alongside him in the officer’s police cruiser following a traffic accident Monday night.
“There is absolutely nothing that is acceptable about this incident,” Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said during a news conference Tuesday announcing the charges against Corporal Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of the county’s police department.
Police identified the victim as 43-year-old William Howard Green of Washington D.C.
According to a police news release, officers who responded to the traffic accident report about 7:20 p.m. Monday found Green in his car, after witnesses said Green had struck their vehicle.
He was removed from his car and “at the time was believed to be under the influence of a substance,” police said. Green was handcuffed and placed in the front seat of Owen’s cruiser while the responding officers awaited the arrival of a drug recognition expert.
Owen then got into the driver’s seat of his cruiser next to Green as they waited, and a short time later “for reasons that are now at the center of the investigation,” according to police, Green was fatally shot by Owen’s service revolver.
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“I am 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 at the news conference. “I concluded that what happened last night is a crime.”
He added that bringing charges against Owen was the “only appropriate cause of action under these circumstances.”
In addition to a second-degree murder charge, Owen is accused of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. He is being held Wednesday in the Prince George’s County jail with no bond, according to online jail records.
An attorney who might speak on his behalf was not identified.
Police said that after the shooting, Owen and another officer pulled Green from the cruiser and attempted life-saving efforts. Green was taken to a hospital and died there a short time later.
The decision to place Green in the cruiser’s front seat followed police protocol, according to the department, which cited its written directive that states: “One officer may transport one arrestee, who will occupy the right front seat. For vehicles equipped with transport partitions, arrestees will occupy the right rear seat.” Owen’s cruiser did not have a partition dividing the front and back seats.
Because the officer was not wearing a body camera, the shooting and what led to it was not captured on video, police spokeswoman Christina Cotterman earlier told reporters at a separate news conference, reports the Associated Press.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy promised a “thorough and independent investigation” in a statement Tuesday, according to the outlet.
“We will seek truth, and will vigorously pursue justice in a way that is fair and responsible,” Braveboy’s statement said. “Once we have received all information and completed our own investigation and analysis, I assure you that my office will be transparent and accountable to the public about our findings and how we will move forward.”