Jury to determine whether Maryland officer’s fatal shooting of handcuffed man was justified

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  • A jury is set to determine whether Michael Owen Jr., a Prince George’s County police officer, broke the law when he fatally shot a handcuffed suspect in 2020.
  • The defense argues that Owen, who was not equipped with a body camera when the incident occurred, may have been defending himself when he killed 43-year-old William Green.
  • Owen is the first police officer in county history to be charged with committing murder while on-duty.

A Maryland jury will decide in the coming weeks whether a Prince George’s County police officer broke the law when he shot and killed a handcuffed man in 2020.

A trial began Tuesday for Michael Owen Jr., who had served on the police force for 10 years when he became the first officer in the county’s history to be charged with murder in an on-duty killing. He faces second-degree murder and other charges.

In opening statements, prosecutors and the defense agreed on certain basic facts: that Owen fatally shot William Green, 43, while the handcuffed man was sitting in the front seat of the officer’s police cruiser, The Washington Post reported. But the two sides disputed other aspects of the case, including whether a struggle preceded the shooting and whether Owen acted in self-defense.

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Several months after Green’s death, in September 2020, county officials announced a $20 million settlement with his family.

Prince George’s County has nearly 1 million residents and its police department is Maryland’s fourth largest law-enforcement agency, with more than 1,500 officers covering a wide swath of the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Prosecutor Joel Patterson told jurors Tuesday that they would hear from three witnesses, including another responding officer, who saw no commotion in the car and heard no verbal dispute in the moments before Owen fired seven shots, striking Green six times, according to the Post.

“William Howard Green posed no threat,” Patterson said. “He posed no threat whatsoever.”

Owen had handcuffed Green behind his back after responding to a traffic accident and finding him sleeping in his vehicle, apparently under the influence of an unknown substance, according to a police report. Owen then put Green in the front passenger seat of the patrol car.

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Owen wasn’t wearing a body camera during the deadly encounter.

His lead defense attorney, Thomas Mooney, argued the shooting was self-defense. He said the jury would see evidence of damage to the inside of Owen’s vehicle and hear from another officer who recalled Owen telling him Green went for his gun, the Post reported.

Mooney also raised questions about weaknesses and inconsistencies in the initial police investigation of the shooting, asking how Owen could be charged with murder if key pieces of evidence were in conflict.

The trial was set to continue Wednesday.

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