Two of the brothers held in connection with the fatal shooting of a Prince George’s County officer on Sunday filmed the attack on a police station using their cell phones, according to three law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation.
Prince George’s County police announced earlier Monday that they had in custody a third brother in connection with the shooting that left Officer Jacai Colson, 28, a four-year veteran, dead. Police said one of the suspects intended to die in the attack and recorded his last will and testament on video minutes before his brothers drove him to the police station, where Colson died in a shootout.
Police also said Monday evening that circumstantial evidence shows that the bullet that struck Colson during the gun battle likely was fired by another officer.
Police said the suspects are Michael DeAndre Ford, 22, of Landover, who police said initiated the gun battle, and his brothers, Malik Ford, 21, of Fort Washington, and Elijah Ford, 18, of Landover.
Police Chief Henry P. Stawinski III said a man walked up to the District III station and opened fire outside the front doors about 4:30 p.m. Sunday in what he described as an “unprovoked” and “callous” act. The brothers also shot at a private vehicle and an ambulance before firing on the police station.
Officers rushed out to stop the attack. Colson was killed in the gunfight, the chief said. Michael Ford was wounded and taken to a hospital where he is in stable condition, the chief said.
Police said they didn’t know of a motive.
“This is about nothing, it was unprovoked,” Stawinski said during a press conference Monday at police headquarters.
Colson was in an unmarked car on his way to meet another officer and arrived amid ongoing shooting, the chief said.
“Circumstantially we believe the fired round that led to Det. Colson’s death was fired by one of his fellow officers..,” said Stawinski, who added authorities are waiting on autopsy results to confirm details.
It is unclear whether the officer who struck Colson confused Colson for a suspect, or if he was struck by the many rounds flying amid the chaos, the chief said.
Stawinski said three brothers plotted the attack against police and planned the filming, though it is still unclear why and how long they planned.
An aunt for the three suspects, Shante Ramos, 30, said on Monday that Michael Ford suffers from bipolar disorder and has been battling mental illness all of his life. “We have no idea what sparked this,” she said. Ramos confirmed that Michael was the one who was shot, but she said relatives have been unable to see him and they don’t have any details about his injuries.
“We can’t believe this is happening,” said Ramos, who lives in Northwest. “We are so sad for this officer dying. We have no idea what happened.”
She said that Michael acts up when he is off his medication, and that he was homeless for a time while in Montgomery County. She said he and his brothers were raised by her sister, Lisa, a single mother who had five children.
“We didn’t see any of this happening,” Ramos said. “They’re saying Michael wanted to kill himself. We just don’t know.” She said his mother, Lisa, suffered a heart attack after police in Prince George’s County burst into her house to search it after the shooting, and is now at the same hospital as her wounded son.
A spokesman with the Greenville County, S.C. Sheriff’s Office said there was a warrant out for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge against one of the suspects, Michael Ford. The spokesman said Ford was accused of punching his wife several times around 1 a.m. on Saturday.
The slain officer’s father, James Colson III, was rushing from Philadelphia to the Washington region Sunday night. His son, he said, “was courageous and an excellent role model” for young men.
Colson graduated from Chichester High School in Boothwyn, Pa., where he was born, and went on to play football at Randolph-Macon College, according to a team roster. Pedro Arruza, the football team’s coach, recalled Colson for his strength of character.
“He was a great kid,” Arruza said of Colson, who played one season for the team at defensive back and wide receiver. “A really respectful kid and just a high-character young man. He treated everyone with respect. . . . To be honest, he wasn’t a great player, but he was a really great person.”
His high school coach, Joe LaRose, said Jacai Colson’s grandfather was also a police officer.
Michael Thomas, who said he is a relative of the three brothers, declined comment Monday at a family home in Fort Washington saying he could not talk because “the family is going through a lot right now.”
The grandmother of the three, Deidre Ramos, 60, of Hyattsville, said Malik and Michael Ford were arrested in connection with the shooting but she said police had the wrong suspects. “They weren’t involved,” she said. Asked if police arrested the wrong people, she said, “Yes.”
Colson, who would have turned 29 this week, was described as a “cop’s cop” and as having an “infectious smile.”
Stawinski said the incident “wasn’t about anything.”
“He opened fire on the first police officer he saw,” Stawinski said.
Colson was an undercover narcotics officer who worked in high-risk situations, Stawinski said. “When things began to turn, he immediately stepped into action,” Stawinski said of Colson’s response Sunday.
“He was always there for his fellow brothers and sisters,” said Prince George’s Fraternal Order of Police President John Teletchea.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks called the incident “another horrific act of evil.” “We have another mother tonight without her son,” Alsobrooks said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered flags to fly at half-staff. “The First Lady and I send our sincere prayers to the family and loved ones of Officer Colson, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his fellow citizens and community,” Hogan said in a statement. “It is my hope that his proud legacy of commitment and passion for law enforcement and serving others will provide some comfort in the difficult days that lie ahead.”
Police cars and barricades continued to block the area around the police headquarters — also connected to the district station — late into the evening.
Sunday’s killing came 12 days after the funeral for Prince William County officer Ashley Guindon, who was shot and killed there on her first day on duty. Guindon was killed when she and two fellow officers were sent to a home in the Woodbridge area of the county to answer a call about a domestic dispute.
Ronald Williams Hamilton, 32, an Army staff sergeant, allegedly opened fire on Guindon and the two other officers Feb. 27 as they approached the front door to his and wife’s home.
During his two decades as a high school football coach, LaRose saw hundreds of kids come through, but he said few were like Jacai Colson.
“He was that kid that every once in a while you hope you have,” LaRose said. “That kid who is a leader. There’s an old saying that when you’re a leader and you turn around, everyone is following you. He had that way of being a leader.”
Growing up around police inculcated him, LaRose said, with a sense of discipline. Colson was so mature, LaRose said, that he decided to start him at quarterback when he was still a sophomore. Most students, he said, would have wilted under the pressure of playing with older students.
But not Colson.
“He walked into the huddle of older kids and led them to a successful season,” LaRose said. He said he wasn’t surprised when he learned he had become a police officer. He said he “felt safer” knowing Colson had decided to serve.
“We lost a great one today,” he said.
In Cheverly, police cruisers lined the entrance to Prince George’s Hospital Center on Sunday night. Hundreds of officers stood vigil where colleagues took Colson after the shooting. They held hands, some with tears in their eyes as they reflected on the loss of one of their own.
Then, at around 10 p.m., Colson’s body – draped in an American flag – was loaded into an ambulance to be taken to the medical examiner in Baltimore. As the ambulance departed, escorted by cruisers flashing blue lights, officers lined up in the wet streets and saluted.
Dan Morse, Arelis R. Hernández, Keith L. Alexander, Clarence Williams, Matt Zapotosky, Julie Tate, Jennifer Jenkins and Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.