A 28-year-old police officer was fatally shot in an ambush Sunday afternoon in Landover, Maryland, outside the police station where he worked, authorities say.
Prince George’s County Police Officer Jacai Colson was killed when a gunman opened fire on officers outside the department’s District III station, which is near the county headquarters, police said on Twitter.
Colson was killed by friendly fire, according to Fox 5 DC. He was accidentally shot by another officer during an exchange of gunfire with a suspect.
Police sources say two brothers filmed the attack as a third brother opened fire in an apparent suicide by cop attempt, Fox 5 reports.
“One of your defenders lost his life in defense of this community today. This was an unprovoked attack,” Prince George’s Police Chief Henry Stawinski said.
Colson, a second-generation police officer, would have celebrated his 29th birthday on Thursday. He was rushed to the hospital and later died.
A third brother, Elijah Ford, is also in custody.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He & Other Officers Were Ambushed Outside the Station When the Gunmen ‘Launched an Attack,’ Police Say
The shooting happened at about 4:30 p.m. Sunday near the District III station at 7600 Barlowe Road. Officers swarmed the area, shutting down roads and telling residents to stay inside and shelter in place. The area was locked down until about 6:30 p.m., when the department announced two suspects were in custody.
“Our officers were going about their business and were attacked,” Chief Henry Stawinski said. “Those officers did not shrink. They bravely advanced and engaged this individual who was threatening not just the police officers and the police facility that he was opening fire upon but numerous members of the community in the area.”
The police chief said the suspect fired at civilian vehicles and an ambulance.
Police called the incident an “active shooter” situation.
A neighbor described the scene to the Washington Post.
“He fired one shot, and then he started pacing back and forth, then fired another shot,” said Lascelles Grant. “Who would shoot a police station on Sunday evening? This is insane.”
The chief told reporters that Colson was not engaged with the suspect, and that the gunman opened fire on the first officer he saw. Grant said officers poured out of the station.
“Just looking outside, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, look at all these police officers running out, putting their lives really in danger,'” Grant told the Post.
2. He Was Called a ‘Cop’s Cop’ & a Friend by the Union President
The local Fraternal Order of Police president, John Teletchea, called Officer Jacai Colson a “cop’s cop” during a press conference announcing his death. He also said Colson was a friend.
“Jacai had an infectious smile, he lit up a room,” Teletchea said.
Colson was a four-year veteran of the department and was a narcotics officer, police said.
Officers and family gathered at the hospital where Colson was taken after the shooting. In an emotional scene, officers gathered in a circle to pray outside the hospital:
— Amy Yensi WJZ (@AmyWJZ) March 13, 2016
Funeral details for Colson have not yet been finalized.
The Prince George’s County Police Department lost an officer almost exactly a year ago in a crash. Officer Brennan Rabain was killed on March 7, 2015, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page, when he lost control of his cruiser while attempting to make a traffic stop during icy conditions.
3. He Was a Pennsylvania Native & the Grandson of a Retired Police Sergeant
Colson was a native of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, according to his Facebook page.
His grandfather is a retired Delaware County, Pennsylvania, police officer. Sergeant James G. Colson Jr., was an officer in Upper Chichester for more than 40 years, according to an article in the Delaware County Times.
The younger Colson graduated from Chichester High School. A high school teammate tweeted a photo Sunday, saying he was the football team’s quarterback:
He then attended Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, graduating in 2009.
He was a defensive back on the college’s football team during his freshman year, according to the school’s website.
“He was a great kid,” his coach at Randolph-Macon, Pedro Arruza, told the Washington Post. “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.”
4. The Shooting Was Recorded on Cell Phones by 2 of the Suspects
According to Fox 5 News, the suspect’s two brothers recorded the shooting on cell phones. It was apparently an attempted suicide by cop, the news station reports.
Family members identified the wounded suspect and gunman as Michael Ford, the Washington Post reports.
They said he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The police chief said Ford’s brothers knew he was planning the attack on the police station and did nothing to stop it.
“This was preventable,” the chief said.
“What we wanna know is why did all of this happen? What caused this? That’s what we wanna know,” Erica Thomas, the Fords’ aunt, told the Post. “I apologize if that’s the case, but all lives matter. Where is my nephew?”
Deirde Ramos, the brothers’ 60-year-old grandmother, said they “weren’t involved” and told the newspaper the police arrested the wrong people.
5. He Is the Third Police Officer Killed in Maryland This Year
Colson is the third officer from the state of Maryland and the fourth from the region killed in the line of duty in 2016, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ordered flags to fly at half-staff and released a statement Sunday night:
I am shocked and saddened by the news this evening of the death of Prince George’s County police officer Jacai Colson in the line of duty. Our administration is committed to assisting Prince George’s County officials during this time, and the Maryland State Police are working closely with local law enforcement to provide support as needed.
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. 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.
Two officers from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office were fatally shot on February 10, Senior Deputy Mark Logsdon and Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey. A suspect, David Evans, was charged in that shooting.
On February 27, a Prince William County, Virginia, police officer, Ashley Guindon, was fatally shot while responding to a domestic incident on her first day on the job. Prince William County is about an hour away from Prince Georges County, Maryland. Ronald Hamilton has been charged in her death.