UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Prince George’s County officials have reached a $20 million settlement in the case of a man who was shot to death by an officer while he was handcuffed in the back of a police vehicle.
Officer Michael Owen has been indicted on charges including second-degree murder in connection with the death of William Green.
Attorneys representing the Green family told FOX 5 that the settlement is the largest publically known police brutality settlement in the state of Maryland – possibly one of the nation’s largest – involving an African American man and police.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said that a preliminary investigation made it clear that Owen should face criminal charges in connection with Green’s death.
Before being elected to the office of the county executive, Alsobrooks spent eight years as a State’s Attorney.
She acknowledged that no monetary reward could compensate Green’s family for the loss of life.
The family said the settlement won't bring them justice, but it will help them get to the next chapter - Owen's criminal trial.
"This is like the day he died. So she relives this every time a George Floyd is killed. Every time a Breonna Taylor is killed. My aunt relieves this every single day. His children’s living this every single day. So this judgement is necessary. This settlement was necessary for us and move and move past this," said William Green's cousin, Nikki Owens.
Green was taken into custody by Prince George’s County police in January after they responded to a report of an erratic driver in the Silver Hill area.
Investigators pulled Green over in Temple Hills and reportedly smelled PCP coming out of his vehicle.
Witnesses reported seeing a struggle between two men inside the police vehicle on Winston Street.
There was an early report of a struggle between Green and Owen, but investigators appear to have since found otherwise.
Former Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said Green was shot seven times.
Investigators say Owen fired seven shots. Green was hit six times. He died later at a local hospital.
A Washington Post investigation also revealed that Owen’s past actions had triggered the department’s early warning system – but apparently no action was taken.
The police union president told FOX 5 that he supports county executive's decision.
Owen's attorney, Thomas Mooney, offered the following statement:
The pursuit of truth and the road to justice in the case of a police officer-involved shooting has typically been a long one. Historically in our country, and perhaps at this time more than ever, an objective, methodical, and sometimes necessarily-lengthy investigation has always preceded, and should always precede, the decision to bring criminal charges. In Officer Owen’s case, however, a “knee jerk” reaction to pursue charges based on unsubstantiated or discounted facts and hastily-misguided assumptions has regrettably been the undeniable theme.
Beginning with the County’s highly-publicized press conference within 24-hours of the shooting in which the County’s Police Chief (now retired) and the State’s Attorney declared their judgment of Officer Owen, and now with today’s settlement announcement from Prince George’s County, yet again in a highly-publicized press conference, the presumption of innocence Constitutionally-afforded to Officer Owen has been simply brushed-aside.
Officer Owen continues to eagerly await his day in a court of law, not in a televised press conference, where all the facts finally will be revealed and brought to light and justice will prevail.
Attorney William Murphy also raised the topic of police reform at the Monday news conference, calling on police departments nation-wide to have body-worn cameras, eliminate the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights and obtain insurance, that he claimed would encourage less of these more serious police-involved incidents. Murphy told reporters they would not be there Monday (announcing the settlement) were it not for cell phone cameras.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, in part of her response, spoke of the county’s police reform task force she commissioned, which Alsobrook said is excepted to provide recommendations on department practices and policies in December. Alsobrooks also credited the Prince George’s Police Department with swiftly bringing charges against one of their own.
“She just told us there’s no money for body cameras. It’s not in the budget. No money in the budget. How? When you’re spending almost $10 million on protecting the department and just $20 now to give for something an office did in your department,” said Kema Hutchinson Harris, critical of the county executive. Hutchinson Harris says she is he co-founder of “Community Justice” and the mother of Kevin Sneed. She called the record-making settlement, something meant to “appease us.” “It’s coming from out of our money, tax dollars. It’s not coming out of an insurance plan built for their police brutality. It’s coming from the hardworking people of this county...” Hutchinson Harris added.
A spokesperson with the county executive’s office corrected FOX 5 on the body-worn camera issue on Monday evening, saying those for each officer in the patrol bureau were fully funded this fiscal year. We’re told officers who interact with the public will be equipped with body-worn cameras by the end of December.