UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (AP) — More than two years after a gunman’s videotaped attack on a Maryland police station, a jury will hear testimony that a police officer mistakenly fired the bullet that killed an undercover detective who rushed to the scene of the shootout.
But the jurors must decide whether the man accused of provoking the friendly-fire shooting is guilty of murder and other charges in the March 2016 killing of Prince George’s County police detective Jacai Colson. Opening statements for Michael Ford’s trial are scheduled for Wednesday.
Authorities have said a fellow officer, Taylor Krauss, mistook the plainclothes-wearing narcotics detective for an armed threat and shot him after Ford began firing at the police station in Landover, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Ford’s two brothers videotaped the March 2016 attack, police said.
A judge ruled earlier this month that Ford can’t present an insanity defense at trial despite his serious mental-health issues, The Washington Post reported.
Investigators concluded that Ford, then 22, “intended to die at the hand of a police officer” and dictated his last will and testament minutes before his brothers dropped him off at the station, police said in a 2016 news release, citing cellphone video recorded by one of Ford’s brothers.
A police detective testified in 2016 that Ford’s brothers agreed to film the shooting so the video could be sent to WorldstarHipHop.com, a website known for posting users’ violent videos. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks has said the cellphone videos were an attempt to gain notoriety.
Ford is charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder, assault and other offenses. His two younger brothers, Malik and Elijah, pleaded guilty to related charges and await sentencing hearings.
A grand jury declined to indict Krauss on any charges related to Colson’s shooting.
“It has always been our contention that even though Ford didn’t pull the trigger, Colson’s death was a direct result of Ford’s actions, making him ultimately responsible for Colson’s death,” state’s attorney’s office spokesman John Erzen said in an email on Monday.
However, Colson’s parents sued Krauss and Prince George’s County over the deadly shooting. Their wrongful death lawsuit says Krauss recklessly fired an assault rifle despite “visual obstructions.” Krauss shot twice through a wooden privacy fence before firing the shot that killed Colson from behind a wall at a distance of approximately 95 yards, the family’s suit says.
Colson was carrying his badge as he screamed, “Police, police!” according to the lawsuit, which says the detective’s shouts were captured on tape.
Colson and Krauss had worked in the same unit and sat at connecting desks, the suit says. Colson was black and Krauss is white.
Four officers, including Colson and Krauss, fired their weapons during the exchange of gunfire on the afternoon of March 13, 2016, police said.
Michael Ford fired two rounds at the glass door of the station, shattering it, before shooting at and “barely” missing officers who responded, according to a police report. Ford also fired his .40-caliber handgun at passing vehicles, including an ambulance that was hit by his gunfire, the report said.
Colson, who was a four-year veteran of the department and 28-year-old native of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, drove up to the station, exited his vehicle and exchanged gunfire with Ford before the other officer shot him, police said.
Michael Ford’s brothers drove away after he was shot in the abdomen and immediately arrested. Malik Ford, then 21, surrendered to police at a fast-food restaurant near the shooting scene. Police later arrested Elijah Ford, then 18, at a Landover home.
By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
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