A Maryland county struck a $ 20 million deal with the family of an unarmed black man who was shot to death by a police corporal while handcuffed in a patrol car in January, officials said Monday. . The figure, announced Sunday, ranks among the largest settlements in a case that saw the murder of a policeman.
“There is no appropriate price tag to accompany a loss like that, but we believe the actions taken that night against Mr. Green and ultimately taken against his family warrant this deal,” Angela D. Alsobrooks, Prince County Executive George’s County said at a news conference.
“And when that trust is abused, you need to act quickly and decisively,” he added.
Corporal Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of Prince George’s Police Department, shot the man, William H. Green, 43, multiple times on January 27, while Mr. Green’s hands were handcuffed behind. his back and as he sat in the front seat of a parked police car, officials said.
Officials said Corporal Owen, who is Black, fired seven shots from inside his patrol car, six of which hit Mr. Green, killing him.
Mr. Green, a father of two who worked for Megabus, had been stopped and handcuffed on suspicion of driving under the influence after hitting several cars, the police chief said at the time.
Corporal Owen was waiting for another officer to arrive to evaluate Mr. Green for drugs when he opened fire.
An early police report suggested that a fight preceded the shooting. But after a review of what happened, investigators concluded that there was “no plausible explanation for how Mr. Green could have attempted to control the corporal’s gun,” Ms. Alsobrooks said.
Within 24 hours of the murder, police officers charged Corporal Owen with second degree murder. It was the first time a county police officer has faced a murder charge for killing someone on duty, Ms. Alsobrooks said.
Corporal Owen, who remains suspended without pay, has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter, first degree assault and the use of firearms to commit a violent crime.
“I decided that he shouldn’t have been treated any differently than any other individual who had just shot someone multiple times without justification, as there are no two systems of justice,” Ms. Alsobrooks said.
The county has been in mediation for the past few months with the Green family and their lawyers. Separate criminal proceedings involving Corporal Owen are continuing, Ms. Alsobrooks said. Corporal Owen was in jail awaiting trial Monday afternoon, according to the county. His lawyer was not immediately contacted for comment, but him told the Washington Post that the criminal charges against Corporal Owen were based on “unsubstantiated or obvious facts and hastily misleading assumptions.”
William H. Murphy Jr., one of the family’s attorneys, said the settlement reflected “the heinous nature, the brutal nature, the senseless nature of what happened to Mr. Green.” He said that while some may question the amount of the settlement, it would most likely cost the county less than going to trial, while freeing the family from having to wait years for a resolution.
Malcolm P. Ruff, another family lawyer, said the deal should be interpreted as a message that “illegal police violence against unarmed black men should not go without severe punishment and that our communities will not support it. more”.
At the press conference, Mr. Green’s 21-year-old daughter, Shelly Green, complained about the loss of her father, whom she called the “glue” that held the family together.
“It was always there,” he said. “Now I’m left alone without him to understand my life.”
In 2011, the department placed Corporal Owen, who was an officer at the time, on administrative leave after he shot and killed a black man in Landover, Md., Who police said had pointed a gun at him. Police said he had stopped at the side of the road to check on the man, who was in the grass.
In June, Prince George County Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned after the publication of the American Civil Liberties Union an extensive relationship document the ways in which black and brown police officers were discriminated against by the department. In response to the report, the county also created a task force to review other aspects of police, such as the use of force.
As part of the deal, the Green family will be invited to speak to the Police Reform Working Group, which is helping lead the search for a new police chief, according to the county.
The $ 20 million settlement figure is not unprecedented in a case involving police misconduct. Last year, for example, the city of Minneapolis offered $ 20 million to the family of an unarmed Australian woman who was killed by police after calling 911 to report what it believed were the sounds of an assaulted woman. But the figure still makes it the largest in Maryland’s history and the third largest in the country, according to Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, the law firm representing the Green family.