In one of the largest settlements of its kind, the family of William Green, shot six times by a Prince George’s County police officer, will receive $20 million from the county. Green was killed on January 27 by Corporal Michael A. Owen Jr.
At the time, Green, 43, was handcuffed and seated in the front seat of the police cruiser when Owen opened fire. Owen was inside the patrol car at the time. He fired seven shots while in the vehicle, six of which hit Green. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder the following day, as well as first-degree assault and using a firearm to commit a violent crime.
No other county officer has ever been charged with murder while in the course of duty. Owen had been on the force for a decade.
Driving Under the Influence
Green, who worked as a bus driver, was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. He had hit several cars while driving his Buick. Green was found asleep in his vehicle, possibly under the influence of drugs. The father of two was handcuffed and placed in the police cruiser.
Owen was apparently waiting for another officer, a drug recognition expert, to arrive and perform a drug evaluation on Green. Instead, he began shooting.
There is no explanation of what triggered Owen to open fire. At the time, he told authorities that he feared for his life because Green – whose hands were cuffed behind his back – reached for a firearm. Prosecutors dismissed that, saying there is no evidence Green posed a threat to Owen.
However, this is not the first time Owen had shot someone while on the job. In 2011, he was placed on administrative leave after shooting and killing a Black man he alleged had pointed a weapon at him. In this incident, Owen had seen the man lying by the side of the road and had pulled over to check on him.
The Prince George’s County Police Department’s early warning system had already noticed potential trouble brewing with Owen. Months before Green’s fatal shooting, the system flagged Owen. He had been involved in two episodes of using force rapidly during the summer of 2019. He had not told supervisors that he applied for workers’ compensation for the psychological issues he claimed to suffer from the 2011 shooting.
In his 10 years in the department, Owen used force against civilians a minimum of nine times. Last year, videos showed Owen arresting two people while his hands were around their necks.
Over the years, his failure to appear in court meant quite a few people he arrested had charges dropped. Although red flags were raised, supervisors did not appear to realize he was a ticking time bomb.
Jury selection in Owen’s trial is expected to take place in March.
County Accepts Responsibility
The settlement is the largest of its type in Maryland history and the third-largest of such settlements nationwide. County officials stated the county is “accepting responsibility” for the actions leading to Green’s death. They acknowledge ignoring the warning signs issued by their own system is a reason for the large settlement.