A grand jury in Prince George’s County, Maryland, has indicted a county police officer on second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault charges in the fatal shooting of a handcuffed man in the officer’s cruiser in January.
Police Cpl. Michael Owen was also indicted on charges of using a handgun and misconduct in office, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy announced during a news conference Thursday.
At the same time she announced the indictment, Braveboy also revealed more details about what happened the night William Green, 43, of D.C., was shot and killed inside Owen’s patrol car.
“We conducted an independent investigation into the facts of this case,” Braveboy said.
Police arrested and charged Owen less than 24 hours after the shooting, she noted. “So there was a lot of information that we have been able to gather over the last several weeks that was not available to the police at the time that they made their charges.”
Citing preliminary toxicology findings, Braveboy said Green did in fact have PCP in his system at the time of the shooting. That matches up with what responding officers said on the night Green was shot, but which police officials had later backed away from, citing a lack of evidence.
Braveboy said her office is waiting on the full toxicology report, which will detail the levels of PCP in Green’s system at the time he was shot.
The Jan. 27 shooting happened after Owen, a 10-year veteran of the police force, was called to a neighborhood in Temple Hills, Maryland, for the report of a traffic incident. Witnesses told police that Green had struck their vehicle, and he was eventually handcuffed and put in the front seat of Owen’s police cruiser, which police have said is standard practice.
Green was inside Owen’s cruiser for about 10 minutes before he was shot several times, according to police. When paramedics arrived after Green was shot, he was still handcuffed behind his back, police said at the time.
There have been shifting accounts about whether there was any sort of struggle before the shooting.
On the night of the shooting, police said two independent witnesses — who were not police officers — told investigators they either saw or heard a struggle coming from the cruiser before the shooting. By the following day, police said those accounts could no longer be corroborated, and officers wrote in charging documents that there was no evidence of a struggle before the shooting.
Braveboy told reporters on Thursday: “Whether or not there was a struggle, what we do know is that … we believe there was movement inside the vehicle” at the time of the shooting.
After Owen was charged in Green’s killing, Braveboy’s office announced that prosecutors were reviewing a 2011 shooting involving Owen.
In that case, Owen fatally shot a man on the side of the road in Landover, Maryland, after the officer said the man pulled a handgun on him. Owen was never charged in that shooting.
Braveboy said her office is still in the “beginning stages” of reinvestigating the 2011 shooting.
Green’s family has called for a complete investigation into the shooting as well as Owen’s past conduct.
“The grand jury is made up of citizens and residents here in Prince George’s County, and that body has decided that the actions of Cpl. Owen that night (were), in fact, a crime,” Braveboy said of Green’s shooting. “And so our office is charged now with prosecuting Cpl. Owen.”