Maryland cop charged with murder after allegedly firing 7 times at handcuffed suspect

Maryland cop charged with murder after allegedly firing 7 times at handcuffed suspect
Human Rights

A black Maryland police officer is facing murder charges after he was accused of shooting another black man who was handcuffed inside of a police cruiser on Monday. Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of the Prince George's County Police Department, faces charges of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, according to jail records. William Green was shot seven times in the incident, Prince George’s County Chief of Police Henry Stawinski said at a press conference Tuesday. He called dealing with the “unprecedented” incident "the most difficult moment" of his time with the department. “I am unable to come to our community this evening and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night," he said. “I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime."

The incident started with a traffic stop after two responding officers became concerned about Green's "level of impairment by unknown substances," Stawinski said. Green was shot while officers were waiting for additional support from a drug recognition expert. "Preliminarily, our media relations representatives last night spoke to the possibility of PCP being involved," Stawinski said. "That does not appear to be the case." An earlier report of witnesses to a struggle inside the vehicle also wasn’t corroborated, and Stawinski said he is not sure if Green was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the shooting.

Angela Alsobrooks, the chief executive officer of Prince George's County, said during the press conference that she has directed the police department to review its training practices to ensure an incident like this never happens again. "Having had the opportunity to be briefed by the department, I should tell you that there is absolutely nothing that is acceptable about this incident," she said. Owen wasn’t wearing a body camera at the time of the incident, but the police department is in the process of rolling out a body camera program, Alsobrooks said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland spoke out about the lack of body-camera footage in a statement Tuesday calling for greater transparency. “There is no reason why a handcuffed person should ever be shot multiple times by a police officer, let alone shot multiple times inside a patrol car. Anything short of that assessment would just demonstrate complete lack of respect for human life,” the ACLU said. “We must put a stop to systemic police brutality and the needless killings of Black people. We cannot afford to fail in this goal because lives are at stake. #BlackLivesMatter"

This isn’t the first time a handcuffed suspect has been the target of police violence in Prince George’s County. Cpl. Stephen Downey was sentenced to six months in jail for punching a handcuffed Andre Verdier in the face in October 2018, and Demonte Ward-Blake was paralyzed when he appeared to hit the ground with his neck in an officer takedown, during which he was handcuffed, NBC Washington reported. When a woman questioned Alsobrooks at the press conference about what she would do related to charging “bad cops” to prevent them from continuing to help each other get away with violence, Gina Ford, a spokeswoman for Alsobrooks, dismissed the woman’s question. "So if you have something you'd like to discuss further, we can do so after this press event," Ford said. When the woman pushed, “I asked a question,” Ford responded: "I understand, and that can be addressed after this media event.”

This journalist wishes the woman’s question had been answered during the press conference. How officials are addressing a pattern of violence at the hands of the very people entrusted to protect and serve shouldn’t be relegated to private conversations meant only to curb frustrations.

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