Temple Hills, MD – A Prince George’s County police corporal has been charged with murder in the shooting death of a suspect he was transporting in the front seat of his patrol vehicle.
Local sources advise that transporting suspects in their front seat is normal procedure.
The suspect, 43-year-old William Green, was handcuffed behind his back at the time of the shooting, WJLA reported.
The incident began at approximately 8 p.m. on Monday, after police received a report of a vehicle crashing into a series of parked cars on Winston Street.
They arrived to find Green unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle, and initially suspected he was under the influence of PCP, WJLA reported.
Police said that Green slammed into a total of six other vehicles before he passed out.
He was placed in handcuffs and seated in the front passenger seat of a patrol vehicle that was not equipped with a partition between the front and rear portions of the cruiser, WJLA reported.
Under department policy, officers are prohibited from transporting suspects in the back of their patrol cars unless the cruiser is equipped with a transport partition, according to WUSA.
“[A] police 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 that car,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said.
While they waited for another officer to arrive at the scene to evaluate Green for drug use, Prince George’s County Police Corporal Michael Owen got into the driver’s seat next to the suspect, according to The New York Times.
At one point, Cpl. Owen radioed that Green needed to use the bathroom, WJLA reported.
Police initially said that two independent witnesses said that they saw Cpl. Owen and Green engaged in a struggle in the front seat of the patrol vehicle just before the corporal opened fire, according to WUSA.
But Chief Stawinski later walked back that claim, as well as several others.
“We do not believe PCP was involved, we do not have independent witnesses that observed a struggle and we do not know for certain that Mr. Green was seat-belted in that cruiser,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
Cpl. Owen shot Green seven times during the incident, WUSA reported.
Officers immediately attempted lifesaving measures until Green was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Cpl. Owen, a 10-year veteran-of-the-force, was placed on administrative leave on Monday evening in the wake of the fatal shooting.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was arrested on charges of second-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, use of a firearm to commit a violent crime, and first-degree assault, according to The New York Times.
“I have concluded that what happened last night is a crime,” Chief Stawinski told reporters. “There are no circumstances under which this outcome is acceptable.”
Cpl. Owen was not wearing a bodycam at the time of the fatal encounter because the department is still in the process of acquiring enough cameras to equip every officer, WUSA reported.
On Tuesday morning, Green’s family gathered near the site of the shooting to demand answers about his death.
“We want to know why our loved one was brutally shot in a police car, handcuffed, seat belted, and in the front seat,” Green’s fiancé, Sandra Mathis, told WJLA. “We have questions that’s not being answered. We want to get to the bottom of this.”
“They shot my son and it’s not right,” Brenda Green added. “How you gonna shoot somebody sitting in a front seat of a car in handcuffs and with a seat belt on? Why would you do that?”
Green’s cousin, Juanita Sharma, said that Green was not a violent man.
“Since the day he was born he was the most gentle, sweetest, kindest,” Sharma told The New York Times. “He loved his mother and he loved his family.
Green’s family is now being represented by attorney Billy Murphy, who also represented Freddie Gray’s family, WUSA reported.
The altercation with Green was third shooting incident involving Cpl. Owen, WJLA reported.
His prior shooting involved armed suspects and were ruled to be justified.
In 2011, he fatally shot a man who threatened him with a gun, according to WUSA.
He also shot a man who attempted to rob him outside his home while he was off duty in 2009.