By Mark F. Gray
Staff Writer

The Prince George’s County Police officer who allegedly shot and killed a suspect in custody on Jan. 27 as he was seated in a squad car while in handcuffs has been charged with murder.  Within a span of approximately 24 hours, Corporal Michael Owen, Jr. was charged with murder in the death of William Green, which officials called “unprecedented.”

“I am unable to come to our community this evening and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” said Prince George’s County Police Hank Stawinski, during the press conference. “I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime.”

Corporal Michael Owen, Jr. was charged with murder in the death of William Green (pictured), who was hancuffed and seated in a squad car on Jan. 27. (Courtesy Photo)

Owen a 10-year veteran of the department, who had previously worked as a communications officer, is facing charges that include second-degree murder, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence.   He is being held without bond pending a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Owen is believed to have shot Green seven times after he had been subdued by authorities while seated on the passenger side of a police cruiser in the Temple Hills area.  The officer was not wearing a body camera and the victim had already been handcuffed according to multiple reports. Green had also reportedly been in a traffic accident while returning home from a restaurant when the officer arrived on the scene to investigate. He handcuffed Green and put him in the front seat of his police car.

During Owen’s bond hearing, Prince George’s County District Court Judge Robert Heffron Jr. called the officer “a threat to public safety,” referencing that he fired seven times at Green while he was subdued.

At the onset of their investigation, County police believed Green was possibly under the influence of the drug PCP, which led to a struggle inside the cruiser before Green’s death.  PCP has been known to produce violent behavior by those who have abused it. However, Stawinski rebuffed that theory during a press conference Jan. 29 and couldn’t substantiate witness accounts of a struggle in police care either. 

There was no evidence that Green was on PCP at the time of the incident does not appear to have been involved and he could not corroborate an account by witnesses of a struggle in the cruiser. Green may not have been wearing a seatbelt in the cruiser as was first reported, according to Stawinski.

The officers reportedly believed that Green was impaired when he was removed from his car. After Green was handcuffed him behind his back and put him in the front passenger seat of Owen’s police vehicle while they waited for a drug recognition expert to arrive, police said. Owen then supposedly got in the driver’s seat next to Green.

The Police Department’s policies do allow for officers who are transporting an arrested suspect to be sequestered in the “right front seat” because PGPD’s cars fleet aren’t equipped with partitions between the front and back seat to prevent incidents from escalating.  Owens was driving a 2013 Ford Interceptor without the barrier or cage in the backseat, according to police.   

“The officer is in a better position to control someone or prevent injury to a person if they have access to them in the front seat of the car,” said Stawinski.