Cellphone video of a gunman’s attack on a Maryland police station shows him screaming obscenities and shouting, “Do something!” in between shots, before an officer mistakenly killed an undercover detective who rushed to the scene of the shootout.
Jurors saw the video Wednesday on the first day of Michael Ford’s trial on murder and other charges stemming from the March 2016 killing of Prince George’s County police detective Jacai Colson.
Ford’s two brothers filmed the attack with their cellphones after driving him to the station. Their videos hadn’t been made public before prosecutors showed the footage to jurors.
“What’s taking you so long?” Ford also screamed during his unprovoked attack on the station, prosecutor Carol Coderre told jurors.
“He emptied his gun not once but twice at police officers, at [emergency medical service] employees, at citizens driving by,” Coderre said. “You’re going to hear there was complete chaos, and the only person who knew exactly what was going on was the person who was mounting the attack.”
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 attorney, Antoini Jones, said his client was trying to provoke police into killing him and didn’t intend to harm anybody else. Ford fired up to 23 shots and didn’t hit anybody, Jones said.
“We believe the evidence will show that Michael Ford wanted to commit suicide,” Jones said. “He believed he was committing suicide by cop.”
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.
Ford, then 22, dictated his last will and testament minutes before his brothers dropped him off at the station, police said in a 2016 news release.
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 fame.
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 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 (85 meters), 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.
Jones, Ford’s attorney, told jurors that the evidence will show Colson was shot “because he was black.” The slimmer, more athletic detective didn’t match the heavyset gunman’s description apart from their race, the defense lawyer said.
“The only common denominator that Jacai Colson had with him was that he was black,” Jones said.
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.
Sgt. Darin Rush, who was inside the police station when the gunfire erupted, said he initially mistook Colson for a second shooter when he saw him dead on the ground.
“It was chaotic,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion. A lot of officers were upset. It was just something that wasn’t planned for.”
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.