The family of William Green, a Maryland man killed by a Prince George’s County police officer Monday night, held a press conference demanding justice Thursday at Mount Joy Baptist Church in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Green, affectionately known as "Booboo" among family and friends, was remembered as “a great man” and “a family man” by around 20 members of his extended family who stood behind Green’s mother, son and daughter, the family’s attorney and a community leader as they spoke at the conference.
“William Green was my best friend and my protector, but most importantly he was my daddy,” said Brenda Green. “He would start my morning off by calling me and telling me to have a great day, and he made sure he ended it by telling me goodnight.”
Green was shot multiple times by Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. when the officer responded to a car accident in which Green was involved in Temple Hills, Maryland. His death was ruled a homicide by the county coroner.
“In the past six months we have lost two black men to police brutality and a third one is paralyzed from the waist down. This particular district – District Four – is one of the worst districts in the county as far as police brutality is concerned,” said Robert Ross, president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP.
County police initially said Green appeared to be under the influence of PCP and was aggressive with Owen. This was later retracted.
“What we think happened is that the officer made a statement that resulted in the initial attempt to cover this up,” said William H. Murphy, the Green family’s attorney.
Despite the department’s early statement placing blame on Green for how the incident unfolded, the family’s attorney praised how the department has handled the incident and the charges brought against Owen.
“Never before have we seen such swift and decisive action from a police chief, who we salute today for doing that; from prosecutor Aisha Braveboy, our great state’s attorney; and from your county executive, who is also mourning this tragic death. But that grief has to be translated into justice,” Murphy said.
The family demands not only justice for Green, but for others impacted by Owen’s police work.
Owen shot and killed 35-year-old Rodney Edwards in December 2011 in front of Edwards’ Palmer Park home. Owen said Edwards was lying in a grassy area but was holding a gun. The shooting was deemed justifiable.
And a woman has come forward saying she was assaulted by Owen while handcuffed in the back seat of his cruiser.
“He handcuffed me in the back of his vehicle and he was talking so nasty,” she said. “And all I kept asking was, ‘Why am I getting arrested.’”
She said he pulled over the car to choke her.
“He pulled over on the Beltway, put that car, shifted that car, grabbed over with his right hand and choked me,” she said. “And this man choked me so tight — and I’m in here with handcuffs — choked me so tight that I urinated on myself.”
She filed a complaint and said Owen was investigated, but she never heard what happened. She was shocked to see Owen on the news and said she wishes she had followed up with her complaint.
“I feel sorry for the person who got his life taken, because it could have been mine,” she said.
Green's family also want large-scale reform that they say can only take place through legislation in Annapolis.
“We are asking that there be a thorough investigation, not only of the incident, but of this officer’s past uses of force so that justice can be administered not only about this, but about the totality of his existence of his existence as a police officer,” Murphy said.
Both Murphy and Ross blame the pervasiveness of police brutality on the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, a bill first enacted in Maryland in 1972, which they say extends unreasonable protection to officers.
“We have the chance now in Annapolis to make the changes because the majority of the delegates in Annapolis are African-American,” said Ross. “Every time we go to Annapolis to fight this, we have a lack of support from the community to come with us. The next time we go, and we should go this year, we need your help.”
Murphy also expressed the need for police body cameras in Prince George’s County specifically.
“Like so many union-driven police departments that resist reform, the police have resisted for years the increasing call for police body cameras. That’s disgraceful, because if they are operating in accordance with the highest principles of justice, what do they have to fear by being recorded?” Murphy said. “It is the exception for an officer in this county to have video cameras. And [the excuse is] that that’s because there wasn’t enough money in the budget to get them all cameras.”
While this remains true, citizens need to take a cellphone video of every interaction they see with the police, Murphy said. It is only because a bystander was videotaping Green’s encounter with Owen that the truth of this incident has come out, he said.
“If it takes an overhaul of how we police, it must be done. If it takes more money to make people safe, it must be spent so that never again will we see this phenomenon of death after death after death after death after death,” Murphy said. “Those responsible for hiring this man, keeping him on the force and allowing him to be in a position where he did what he did have to be brought to civil justice.”