Prosecutors in Prince George’s County, Maryland, are now reviewing a 2011 fatal shooting by the same police officer who was charged after a handcuffed man was shot and killed inside his cruiser Monday night.
Earlier Wednesday, Cpl. Michael Owen, 31, was ordered held without bond on second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of William Howard Green.
Green, 43, of D.C., was sitting in Owen’s cruiser with his hands handcuffed behind his back when he was shot seven times Monday night in Temple Hills, Maryland.
Prince George’s County District Court Judge Robert Heffron Jr. said Wednesday that he found convincing evidence that Owen posed a danger to the community. Owen’s defense attorney had asked for him to be freed without bond.
A spokeswoman confirmed to WTOP that the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office is now looking into a 2011 shooting in which Owen shot and killed 35-year-old Rodney D. Edwards.
The deadly 2011 shooting
The shooting in 2011 happened after Owen said the man, who was lying on the side of the road, pulled a gun on him. Owen never faced charges in Edwards’ death.
A senior prosecutor has been assigned to the case and is obtaining evidence from the 2011 shooting, spokeswoman Denise Roberts told WTOP. The request to review the earlier case came from Edwards’ family after Owen was charged in Green’s killing this week, Roberts said.
The 2011 shooting happened the week before Christmas, when Owen was leaving the department’s annual “Toys for Tots” event, according to a police news release from the time.
Owen was in uniform but in an unmarked car when he said he saw Edwards lying in the grass on the side of Greenleaf Road in Landover. When Owen stopped to check on the man, he said Edwards pulled a handgun and pointed it at him.
According to media reports at the time, Owen fired several shots at Edwards, who was taken to the hospital and later died. Owen was placed on administrative leave at the time, per standard procedure, but was never charged.
Charging docs: No sign of struggle before Monday night’s shooting
Charging documents filed in the more recent shooting shed some additional light on what happened Monday night, but key questions — such as why Owen opened fire — remain.
Owen, a 10-year veteran of the county police force, was not wearing a body-worn camera at the time of the shooting.
Prince George’s County police officials have said they can find no “reasonable explanation” for why Owen shot Green. Police Chief Hank Stawinski, who announced the charges Tuesday evening, called Owen’s actions a crime.
According to court documents filed by prosecutors, investigators found no evidence of a struggle before the shooting, and just moments after the shots were fired, a witness saw Green still seated and handcuffed in the front of the car, suffering from several gunshot wounds.
Before the shooting Monday night, Owen had been dispatched to the area of St. Barnabas Road and Winston Street in Temple Hills around 8 p.m. Monday for the report of a traffic incident with an injury. Witnesses on the scene told police that Green had struck their vehicle.
Green, who was still in his car nearby, was sleeping, according to the charging documents. Officers said, initially, they thought he was under the influence of something.
Green was handcuffed behind his back and placed in the front passenger seat of Owen’s cruiser, which is standard procedure if an officer’s cruiser does not have a partition.
Green was inside the police cruiser for about five to 10 minutes before he was shot, according to the charging documents. After a witness heard the gunshots, he went to the police cruiser, and that’s when he saw Green, still seated and handcuffed, according to the documents.
On the night of the shooting, police said two independent witnesses — not police officers — told investigators they either saw or heard a struggle coming from the cruiser before the shooting. But, by the following day, those accounts could no longer be corroborated, according to a police source.
The charging documents specifically state: “The investigation failed to uncover any evidence of an altercation” between Green and Owen.
When paramedics arrived after Green was shot, he was still handcuffed behind his back, according to the documents. Green was taken the hospital, where he died.
A search later of both the police cruiser and Green’s car turned up no weapons.
In addition to second-degree murder, Owen has been charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence.
Owen was placed on administrative leave after the shooting and was arrested Tuesday.
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.