WASHINGTON — The Prince George’s County Police officer charged with fatally shooting a man being held in custody Monday is one of just three officers to be charged with murder or manslaughter in the county since 2005, according to a WUSA9 review of a national police crime database.
Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. faces charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter and associated weapons charges in the death of William Green.
Police said Green was handcuffed and placed in the front seat of Owen's police cruiser. Owen got into the driver's seat, with Green still handcuffed in the front seat, according to a PG Police spokesperson.
Moments later, the witness heard gunshots and went to Owen's vehicle and saw Green handcuffed in the passenger's seat suffering from multiple gunshots wounds, court document state. Green was transported to United Medical Center, where he died a short time later.
"There are no circumstances under which this outcome was acceptable," Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said in a public statement following the shooting.
Nationwide, it’s exceedingly rare for a police officer to be charged with murder or manslaughter in a shooting while on duty.
According to a WUSA9 analysis of data tracked by Bowling Green State University’s Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database – the most comprehensive repository of police crime in the country – of the 75 cases in which an officer was charged with a crime in Prince George's County from 2005-2014 (the time period the database covers), only two were for murder or manslaughter. And neither case involved an on-duty shooting.
In 2007, then-Prince George’s County Police officer Keith Washington was charged with shooting two furniture delivery men, killing one, during an argument at his home in Accokeek, Maryland. Washington was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
In 2011, a D.C. police officer, Richmond Phillips, was charged in Prince George’s County with murdering his mistress and leaving their 11-month-old daughter to die in a parked car. Phillips was sentenced to life without parole for their deaths.
At least one other Prince George’s County employee was arrested and charged with the death of a person being held in custody during the time period reviewed by WUSA9.
In 2013, a corrections officer at the Prince George’s County Jail, Anthony McIntosh, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with the death of 19-year-old Ronnie L. White. According to the Washington Post, White was in custody for allegedly running down and killing Prince George’s County Police Cpl. Richard S. Findley with a truck. McIntosh was not charged with contributing to White’s death.
According to the Prince George’s County Police Department, Cpl. Owen has worked with the department for 10 years, including in the public information office, and is assigned to the Bureau of Patrol. According to The Washington Post, Owen fatally shot a 35-year-old man who threatened him with a gun in December 2011. He was also involved in a 2009 shooting when someone attempted to rob him outside his home while he was off duty, the Post said. Owen was not charged in either incident.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks has asked Chief Stawinski to "to order an independent review of our department's training practices and methods to ensure that an incident like this never, ever has the opportunity to occur again."