The family of William Green, a 43-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in January 2020, is calling for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to investigate the death after the officer who shot Green was acquitted of second-degree murder, misconduct in office and assault charges last week.
Michael Owen, who was an officer with the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland at the time, found Green sleeping in the back of his vehicle and under the influence of an unknown substance, according to a police report. Owen handcuffed Green and placed him in the passenger’s seat of a police car. After a struggle inside the vehicle, Owen shot Green six times.
During the trial, prosecutors and the defense both acknowledged that Owen shot Green while he was handcuffed, but they disagreed as to whether Owen acted in self-defense. Owen’s attorneys claimed that Green, despite being in handcuffs, had attempted to take Owen’s gun from him.
Owen was not wearing a body camera during the encounter, as the county police department had not made them available to all officers. He was fired from the department after the shooting.
Green’s family settled with the police department for $20 million in September 2020. At the time, it was the highest payout on record for a wrongful death lawsuit in the U.S.
Green’s family said Monday during a press conference that the Department of Justice should investigate the case, arguing that Owen violated Green’s civil rights during the shooting and questioning Owen’s account of the incident since he was not wearing a bodycam. The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union supported Green’s family’s demand for a DOJ investigation.
“I think that the DOJ should intervene in any cases where cops murder unarmed, handcuffed residents,” Nikki Owens, Green’s cousin, told HuffPost. “I feel like these cases are often mishandled on a local level, and I feel that the DOJ should automatically get involved in all of these cases.”
The family has also called on the Maryland attorney general’s office to review the case, noting that Owen had previously been accused of using excessive force.
“[Owen] unreasonably brutalized at least nine (9) citizens, including Plaintiffs, before viciously killing William Green,” reads a lawsuit that four Black men filed in 2021.
According to the lawsuit, one month before he killed Green, Owen was seen on camera pressing his fingers to the sides of another handcuffed man’s neck, ordering him to “calm down.” Another video, from a year earlier, showed Owen wrapping his arm around a man’s neck during an altercation that followed a traffic stop, the lawsuit states.
The office of Aisha Braveboy, the Prince George’s County state’s attorney, stood by its work in the case against Owen.
“Our office put forth a strong prosecution against former Corporal Owen, supported by solid evidence and facts in the possession of the State. Despite our efforts, the jury reached a verdict of not guilty,” Braveboy’s office said in a statement.
“While we stand by our case and disagree with this verdict, we hold the utmost respect for our legal system and the due process it ensures,” the statement read. “It’s important to clarify that at no stage did the State’s Attorney’s Office attribute blame to any individual involved in or associated with this case. The jury’s decision, as is often the case in our courtrooms, was a reflection of their interpretation and evaluation of the evidence and facts as presented.”
Owens, Green’s cousin, described him as an “ultimate family man,” noting that the father of two had worked in masonry and construction on several federal buildings in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.
“He honestly was just an ordinary Black man with an extraordinary way of leaving you completely happy to have met him,” she said. “At his funeral, there were people that met him once and were devastated to hear about his death.”
The Stakes Have Never Been Higher
This story originally appeared on HuffPost