PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - For the first time, we’re hearing from the Prince George’s County Police officer who shot and killed a handcuffed man in his police cruiser.
The trial of Cpl. Michael Owen started last week. He testified in his own defense on Monday.
In January 2020, William Green was reportedly driving erratically and hit multiple cars. Officers responding to the crash reports said they found Green sleeping in his vehicle, apparently under the influence of an unknown substance.
Toxicology later determined he was under the influence and testimony indicated he was not responsive to police commands.
Police searched Green, placed him in handcuffs and put him in Owen’s cruiser.
This trial centers on what happened in that cruiser that led to Owen firing six shots at Green. Prosecutors say Green was not a threat and the shooting was not justified.
Owen testified in his own defense saying that there was a confrontation in the vehicle and he thought he was going to die during the struggle.
Owen testified that as Green became more conscious while handcuffed inside the passenger side of his cruiser, Green was becoming increasingly agitated.
Owen then said there was a struggle over his service weapon. Owen says at the time of the struggle, he didn’t know it was his service weapon and indicated, despite a search of Green, that he thought there may be another weapon in the car.
Owen said Green had his hands on the gun at one point, a shot went off, he wrestled the gun back and fired six shots at Green. Owen said he rendered first aid but Green later died.
There was no testimony to indicate how the gun first went off.
At least one witness in the trial who was standing near the police cruiser said she didn’t hear a commotion to indicate a struggle and investigators previously said they did not find any evidence of a fight between the two.
Investigators said at the time they did not find any weapons in Green's possession or in his vehicle but Owen testified Monday that there was one.
Owen’s family declined to comment on Monday’s testimony in the midst of the case but a friend of Owen’s told FOX 5 he was glad to hear Owen tell his version of what happened.
"I’m sure he’s relieved that he’s finally being heard. Again, he’s been waiting almost four years for this moment, and we’re here," said Terry Barnes.
Owen has been involved in at least two other shootings during his time on the force — one in 2011 in which he fatally shot a suspect who pointed a gun at him after Owen left an event at police headquarters, the department said.
Before that, in 2009, Owen was off-duty when someone tried to rob him outside his home, the Washington Post reported. Police officials said the would-be robber fired, but Owen was not hit and returned fire. The assailant fled, according to police.
The prosecution has worked to make the case that this shooting was not justified and that Green was not a threat to Owen at the time he fired the fatal shots.
Their questions during cross-examination centered on the search of Green during the arrest, the alleged struggle and the number of shots fired.
Testimony will continue on Tuesday.