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Family to receive $20 million in handcuffed man's shooting death

Prince George's County, Maryland, officials settle 9 months after the death of William Green, who was shot 6 times while sitting in a patrol car.
OXON HILL, MD - JAN 30: William H. Billy Murphy Jr.., at podium
Family members of William Green and the family's attorney William H. Billy Murphy Jr.., at podium, during a news conference in Oxon Hill, Md., on Jan. 30, 2020. From left are Brenda Michelle Green, daughter, William Michael Little, son, and Brenda Green, mother, in background.Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The family of a man shot to death by a Maryland police officer has reached a $20 million-dollar settlement with Prince George’s County, announced county officials Monday.

The settlement, which appears to be among the highest ever paid in a single police shooting death, comes 9 months after Cpl. Michael Owen shot William Green, 43, six times in the back while he was handcuffed in the front seat of a police cruiser following his January 27 arrest.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced the historic settlement Monday morning at a press conference alongside the family of Green, and their attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy.

“To be clear there is no price of a son, a father, an uncle, a brother. There is no appropriate price tag to accompany a loss like that one,” said Alsobrooks, “but we believe the actions taken that night against Mr. Green and ultimately taken against his family warrant this settlement.”

The settlement echoes that in the case of Breonna Taylor, whose survivors this month agreed to a $12 million settlement from the Louisville, Ky., police for the March 13 police shootout that killed the 26-year-old in her home.

The night of Green’s death, Owen and one other officer were investigating traffic accidents in Silver Hill, Md., when Green was found in the nearby Temple Hills asleep in his car. Thought to be a suspect in the traffic accidents, Green was arrested and placed in the front seat of the police vehicle where Owen ultimately shot him six times while his hands were handcuffed behind his back. Owen was not wearing a body camera during the incident.

William Green.Brenda Michaele Green via AP

Hours following the shooting, police said there was reason to believe Green was under the influence of PCP and that there were independent witnesses who could verify a struggle in the vehicle before the shooting. The next day, police recanted both claims.

“Preliminarily, our media relations representatives last night spoke to the possibility of PCP being involved,” former Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinksi said in a news conference the morning after Green’s death. “That does not appear to be the case.” Stawinski also said the assertion about independent witnesses “was not corroborated.”

That same day, Owen, who in 2011 fatally shot another man while on duty, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. He was denied bail and awaits trial.

“This was the first time in Prince George’s history that we ever charged an officer for murder in the line of duty,” Alsobrooks said Monday.

During Monday's announcement, Green’s family wore shirts that bore his face.

“For our family, honestly this doesn’t bring resolution, this doesn’t bring justice, this doesn’t bring peace, this really doesn’t make anything better for us,” said William Green’s niece, Nicky Owens. “This settlement was necessary for us to move on and move past this, but we still have a criminal trial to get through, and we still have a grieving process to continue.”