Upper Marlboro — An attorney for a Prince George’s County police officer accused of shooting a handcuffed man pushed back on the murder charge against his client at a court hearing Tuesday.
Attorney Thomas C. Mooney said authorities pressed the second-degree murder charge against Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. after a “rushed” investigation.
Owen appeared in Prince George’s County District Court wearing beige jail clothes, hands cuffed behind his back, for a bail review hearing at which Judge Clayton A. Aarons ordered the officer to remain in jail without bond pending trial.
Owen, 31, was arrested less than 24 hours after police said he shot and killed William Green, 43, of Southeast Washington on Jan. 27. Owen was investigating a traffic crash in Temple Hills and had placed the handcuffed Green into the front passenger seat of his police car before the shooting, police said. Witnesses told police the car Green was driving had struck their vehicle, according to charging documents.
Police initially said there were witness reports of a struggle inside Owen’s cruiser. But in court documents later, police said they could find no sign of a struggle between Owen and Green and no weapon on Green.
Mooney said that for authorities to arrest Owen less than a day after the incident amounted to a “drastic and substantial deviation from the norm” for police shootings.
Owen believed Green was under the influence of PCP, a hallucinogen that has been associated with violent behavior, Mooney said. The attorney said “an atmosphere of unrest permeated the scene” of the crash.
Mooney said Green “quickly became agitated” while sitting in the front seat of the patrol car.
Owen will plead not guilty, Mooney said after the hearing.
Assistant State’s Attorney Renee Joy argued at Tuesday’s hearing that Owen presents a danger to the community and should remain held without bond. Joy said investigators found no evidence, other than Owen’s allegation, that Green was under the influence of PCP. Toxicology results have yet to come back.
“He was fully clothed; he wasn’t acting erratic,” Joy said of Green. She said the officers found Green sleeping after the crash.
Joy said Green was compliant throughout the encounter and posed “no threat.” Minutes after Green was patted down, handcuffed behind his back and put in the patrol car, another officer heard shots and found Green suffering from gunshot wounds. Green was pulled from the car, still handcuffed, and soon pronounced dead. Joy said Owen fired seven shots, six of which struck Green.
About a dozen of Green’s family members, including his mother, attended Tuesday’s hearing. Attorney Malcolm P. Ruff, speaking on their behalf during the hearing, said they were “deathly afraid of [Owen] and any possibility that he be released out in public.”
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After the hearing, Ruff called the judge’s decision that Owen remain held without bond “just the first piece of justice for William Green.”
Owen, who has been on the force for 10 years, was involved with two earlier shootings, one of them fatal.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy (D) has assigned a prosecutor to review the 2011 fatal shooting at the request of the victim’s family, according to a spokeswoman. In that case, Owen fatally shot 35-year-old Rodney Deron Edwards. Owen told investigators in December 2011 that while in uniform, he had pulled over his unmarked van to help a man lying in the grass near Greenleaf Road in Palmer Park and that Edwards then pulled a gun on him, according to police. A loaded revolver was found at the scene, police said at the time.
In a court filing, Mooney said Owen “has received numerous awards as a police officer including a lifesaving award, commander’s award, good conduct award and Chief’s award for his volunteer work with the Explorer’s Program.”
About two dozen of Owen’s family members and friends, including fellow police officers and members of his Bible study group, attended the hearing.
“We’re all hurt by this,” said Terry Barnes, who with his wife holds the weekly Bible study at their home. He said Owen has attended the gatherings for several years.
“He never says a bad thing about anybody, at all, ever,” Barnes said after the hearing. “We know in our hearts he’s innocent because the problem is today our police officers are getting thrown under the bus.”