Officer Accidentally Shot Fellow Officer During Videotaped Maryland Shootout

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Officer Jacai Colson. Photo courtesy

CHEVERLY, Md. — An autopsy on the Maryland officer who died after a suspect opened fire on a police station Sunday showed that he was “inadvertently shot by a fellow responding officer during the gun battle,” police said in a statement.

Authorities identified the three brothers in custody in connection with the shooting as Michael Ford, Elijah Ford and Malik Ford.

Chief Hank Stawinski said Michael Ford is the suspected shooter who opened fire on a police station.

A tweet from the police department said the evidence shows the suspected gunman had intended to die during the gun battle with police.

Stawinski told reporters Sunday that the suspect launched an unprovoked attack. Officers returned fire.

During the exchange, the suspect was also wounded, Stawinski said. He is expected to survive.

The chief identified the fallen officer as Jacai Colson, a four-year veteran of the department. Colson would have celebrated his 29th birthday this week.

According to Stawinski, the suspect opened fire on the first officer he saw. Other officers then became aware of what was happening and returned fire.

“It wasn’t about anything. This man launched an attack on a police station,” the chief said about the suspect. “Officers weren’t in the process of apprehending him or engaging him in any way. They were going about their business on a Sunday afternoon, at their ‘home,’ when they were attacked.”

The Associated Press reported the gunman’s brothers recorded firefight “as if it was a game.”

Colson was assigned to the department’s narcotic enforcement division and had worked as an undercover officer — though that had nothing to do with his killing, Stawinski said.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Teletchea described the attack as unprovoked and unprecedented.

He remembered Colson as someone with an infectious smile and tremendous personality.

“He was a police officer who was a real cop’s cop. He didn’t shy away from any calls. He never shirked his responsibility. He was always working and he was always there for his fellow brothers and sisters,” Teletchea said.

He added: “Personally, he was a very close friend of mine. I’m going to miss him dearly.”

In a statement, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was “shocked and saddened” by Colson’s killing. He ordered that flags fly at half-staff in his memory.

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Officer 1st Class Jacai Colson, 28, died after Michael DeAndre Ford, 22, opened fire about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Police Chief Hank Stawinski said at a news conference Monday evening. 

Ford’s brothers, Elijah Ford, 18, and Malik Ford, 21, were with Michael Ford, of Fort Washington, at the time of the shooting, police said. At least one of the brothers recorded the attack.

“That individual videotaped it as if it’s a game, as if it’s something we’re going to put on YouTube and glorify,” John Teletchea of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police said.

“This was callously recorded and could have been prevented,” Stawinski said.

An image provided by police shows a man’s hand in the rear-view mirror of a red car, apparently recording.

Police believe Michael Ford, who Stawinski said had a history of mental illness, intended to die at the hand of an officer. Two minutes before his brother drove him to the District III station, he recorded his will on a cellphone, police said.

Colson, who would have turned 29 this week, was killed as he tried to take down the gunman, Stawinski said.

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The Ford brothers. From left to right: Michael, Elijah and Malik Ford. Prince George’s County Police say the three are in custody in connection with the fatal shooting of a Prince George’s County police officer.

“Seeing a shooter, he took action and demonstrated extreme heroism,” he said. “Detective Colson drew fire to himself and in doing so was mortally wounded.”

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Colson encountered Michael Ford as he exited an unmarked car and started shooting at cars and an ambulance near police headquarters, on Barlowe Road in Palmer Park, Maryland, Stawinski said. The narcotics officer returned fire, trying to stop the shooter. Three other officers also fired, the police chief said.

All three Ford brothers will be charged with second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony and other charges, police said. Additional charges may be added. Michael Ford is expected to recover.

Information on whether they’d retained attorneys was not available immediately.

Teletchea, of the police union, called Sunday “a dark day in Prince George’s County.”

The county state’s attorney, Angela Alsobrooks, called the shooting an act of “evil” and “cowardice.”

“This is a crime against this entire community and we will treat it as such,” Alsobrooks said. “His life was precious.”

 Colson, a four-year veteran of the police department, grew up in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, and is survived by his parents and younger brother, police said. He graduated from Chichester High School in 2005.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all U.S. and state flags at the state capitol and state facilities in Delaware County to fly at half-staff in honor of Colson.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch similarly mourned the officer’s death, calling the shooting a “heinous act of violence and a cowardly crime.”

“His tragic loss is a reminder of the threats that public safety officers face every day, and the dangers that they bravely confront, in every jurisdiction across the country. The Department of Justice will offer any possible aid to the Prince George’s County community as they investigate this terrible crime, and we will continue to do all that we can to protect and support our officers and hold wrongdoers accountable,” she said.

Colson is the second local police officer to die in the line of duty recently. Two weeks ago in Prince William County, Virginia, 28-year-old Officer Ashley Guindon was shot and killed on her first day on the job. Two other officers were also shotand are recovering. They were responding to a domestic dispute at a home in Woodbridge.

Anyone who witnessed the shooting is asked to call police. The police chief asked anyone driving near the police station about 4:30 p.m. Sunday to check their car for bullet holes. An inspection of that evidence could help police.

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