A Prince George's County, MD, police officer who reportedly shot and killed a suspect who was handcuffed and seated on the front seat of a patrol vehicle Monday night has been charged with murder.
Cpl. Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of the department, is charged with second-degree murder, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence, Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said.
“I am unable to come to our community and offer you a reasonable explanation for the events that occurred last night,” Stawinski said Tuesday evening.
Police responded to a call about a vehicle accident at 7:20 p.m. Monday, officials said.
Officers found the suspected driver, 43-year-old William Howard Green of Southeast D.C., sitting in his car nearby, police said.
The officers believe he was impaired, removed him from his car, handcuffed him behind his back and put him in the front passenger seat of Owen's cruiser while waiting for a drug recognition expert to arrive, police said. Owen got in the driver's seat next to Green, NBC Washington reports.
Putting a suspect in the front of a cruiser that does not have a partition between the front and back seats allows the officer to maintain control of the suspect, Chief Stawinski told the press.
Green was inside the police cruiser for about five to 10 minutes before he was shot, according to the charging documents. Police believe Green was shot seven times by Owen about 8 p.m., Chief Stawinski said.
Monday night 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, a police source told WTOP.
The charging documents specifically state: “The investigation failed to uncover any evidence of an altercation” between Green and the officer.
There were also reports that Green was under the influence of PCP during the incident. However, no PCP has been recovered from the scene, the Washington Post reports. Toxicology testing is expected.
Owen was not wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting.