A Maryland county has reached a $ 20 million settlement with the family of an unarmed black man who was shot dead by a police officer while handcuffed in a patrol car in January, officials said Monday. The figure, announced Sunday, makes it the largest settlement in a case involving the killing of a police officer.
“There is no appropriate price to accompany a loss like that, but we believe that the actions taken that night against Mr. Green and was eventually taken against his family, justifies this solution, ”Angela D. Alsobrooks, the county director of Prince George’s County, said at a news conference.
“And when that trust is abused, it is necessary to take swift and decisive action,” she added.
Corporal Michael Owen Jr., a 10-year veteran of Prince George’s Police Department, shot the man, William H. Green, 43, several 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 hit Mr. Green and killed 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 a fight prior to the shooting. But after reviewing what happened, investigators concluded that there was “no probable explanation for how Mr. Green could have tried to control the gun” by Corporal, Alsobrooks said.
Within 24 hours of the killing, police officers charged Corporal Owen with second-degree murder. It was the first time a county police officer faced a murder deal for killing someone on duty, Ms Alsobrooks said.
Corporal Owen, who remains suspended without pay, was also charged with voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm to commit a violent crime.
“I decided that he should not be treated any differently from any other individual who had just shot someone several times without justification, as there are no two justice systems,” said Alsobrooks.
The county has been mediating for the past few months with the Green family and its lawyers. The separate criminal case involving Corporal Owen is continuing, Ms. Alsobrooks said. According to the county, Corporal Owen was in jail awaiting trial Monday afternoon. His lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment, but he told The Washington Post that criminal charges against Corporal Owen were based on “unfounded or discounted facts and hastily misled assumptions.”
William H. Murphy Jr., one of the family’s attorneys, said the settlement reflected the “abominable nature, the brutal nature, the meaningless nature, of what happened to Mr. Green. ” He said that while some may question the settlement amount, it will likely cost the county less than going to court, while also freeing the family from having to wait years for a solution.
Malcolm P. Ruff, another family lawyer, said the settlement should be interpreted as a message that “illegal police violence against unarmed black men should not go without a severe punishment and that our society will no longer be responsible for this.”
At the press conference, Mr. Green’s 21-year-old daughter, Shelly Green, the loss of her father, whom she called the “glue” that held the family together.
“He was always there,” she said. “Now I’m alone without him to find out my life.”
In 2011, the department placed Corporal Owen, then an officer, on administrative leave after he shot and killed a black man from Landover, MD, who police said had aimed a gun at him. Police said he had pulled out to the side of the road to check on the man who was in the grass.
In June, Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned after the American Civil Liberties Union published a comprehensive report documenting the ways in which black and brown police officers were discriminated against by the department. In response to the report, the county also set up a task force to review other aspects of policing, such as the use of force.
As part of the settlement, the green family will be encouraged to speak to the police reform working group, which will help lead the search for a new police chief, according to the county.
The $ 20 million settlement is not without precedent 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 killed by police after calling 911 to report what she thought was the sound of a woman being attacked. But the figure still makes it the largest in Maryland history and the third largest in the country, according to Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, the law firm representing the green family.