Maryland’s Prince George’s County agreed to pay a $20-million settlement – one of the largest ever in a police-brutality case – to the family of a black man who was shot dead by a black officer while handcuffed in a patrol car.
The county, a suburb of Washington, DC, announced the agreement Monday along with family members of William Howard Green, the 43-year-old man who was killed in January. Green was shot multiple times while sitting in the front passenger seat of a patrol car with his hands cuffed behind his back.
The large settlement “reflected the heinous nature, the brutal nature, the senseless nature of what happened to Mr. Green,” said Billy Murphy, a lawyer representing Green’s family.
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By comparison, Murphy obtained a $6.4 million settlement in 2015 for the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in Baltimore police custody set off violent protests. Earlier this month, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, agreed to pay its largest police-misconduct settlement ever, $12 million, to the family of Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by officers in March.
Michael Owen Jr., the Prince George’s County police corporal who shot Green, was arrested in January and charged with second-degree murder and related charges. He had been called to a neighborhood in Temple Hills after Green reportedly struck several vehicles with his car. A witness then found Green sleeping in his car and blocked in the vehicle until police arrived.
Police took Green out of his car and suspected that he was under the influence of an illegal drug. He was then handcuffed and put in Owen’s patrol car. A few minutes later, another witness heard multiple gunshots from the car. Green died later at a hospital. Investigators alleged that Green posed no threat to Owen at the time of the shooting.
“When we’re at fault, we take responsibility,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.
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While the county settlement resolves civil damages in the case, the criminal prosecution of Owen – including a possible trial – is still pending.
A woman identified as the niece of Green’s mother said the settlement closes only one chapter in the family’s ordeal: “This judgment is necessary. This settlement is necessary for us to go on and get through this. But we still have a criminal trial to get through, and we still have a grieving process to get through.”
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