A Maryland county has reached a $20 million settlement with the family of an unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by a police corporal while he was handcuffed in a patrol car in January, officials said on Monday.
“There is no appropriate price tag to accompany a loss like that one, but we believe the actions taken that night against Mr. Green and ultimately taken against his family warrant this settlement,” Angela D. Alsobrooks, the county executive of Prince George’s County, said at a news conference.
Ms. Alsobrooks, a former prosecutor, noted that the police are “given by this community an awesome and tremendously difficult responsibility of protecting life.”
“And when that trust is abused, it is necessary to take swift and decisive action,” she added.
The corporal, Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of the Prince George’s Police Department, shot the man, William H. Green, 43, multiple times on Jan. 27, while Mr. Green’s hands were handcuffed behind his back and as he sat in the front seat of a parked police cruiser, officials said.
Officials said Corporal Owen, who is Black, fired seven shots from inside his patrol car, six of which struck Mr. Green, killing him.
Mr. Green, a father of two who worked for Megabus, had been pulled over and handcuffed because he was suspected 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 initial police account suggested that a struggle preceded the shooting. But after a review of what occurred, investigators concluded that there was “no plausible explanation for how Mr. Green could have attempted to control the gun” of the corporal, Ms. Alsobrooks said.
Within 24 hours of the killing, prosecutors charged Corporal Owen with second-degree murder. It was the first time a county police officer has faced a murder charge for killing someone in the line of duty, Ms. Alsobrooks said.
Corporal Owen, who remains on unpaid administrative leave, was also charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm to commit a violent crime.
“I determined that he should not be treated any differently than any other individual who had just shot someone multiple times with no justification, as there are not 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. The criminal proceedings involving Corporal Owen are continuing, Ms. Alsobrooks said.
A lawyer for the family said that while some might question the settlement sum, it most likely would cost the county less than going to trial, while also freeing the family from waiting for years for a resolution.
William H. Murphy Jr., one of the family lawyers, said the settlement reflected the “heinous nature, the brutal nature, the senseless nature of what happened to Mr. Green.”
Malcolm P. Ruff, another family lawyer, said the settlement should be interpreted as a message that “unlawful police violence against unarmed Black men should not go without a severe penalty and that our communities will no longer stand for this.”
At the news conference, Mr. Green’s daughter, Shelly Green, lamented the loss of her father.
“He was always there,” she said. “Now I’m left alone without him to figure out 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 from Landover, Md., who the police said had pointed a gun at him. The police said he had pulled over to the side of the road to check on the man, who was in the grass.
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