UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - A 28-year-old police officer who died in a gun battle outside a Maryland police station was hit by a bullet shot from the gun of a fellow officer who mistook him for the suspect, authorities said Wednesday.
Officer Jacai Colson died after he was hit in an exchange of gunfire outside the Prince George's County District III Station on Sunday afternoon. According to investigators, 22-year-old suspect Michael DeAndre Ford started firing at the building and officers in an unprovoked attack. His two brothers are accused of driving him to the police station, and videotaping the ambush attack on their cell phones.
At a news conference, Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinski told reporters Wednesday afternoon that the bullet that struck Colson was intended to hit him, and that the unnamed fellow officer mistook Colson for the shooting suspect. At the time of the shooting, Colson was off duty, and was not in uniform.
In the chaotic minutes after police say Michael Ford opened fire on the District III station with a .40 caliber handgun, six officers jumped into action. Five of them came from the station, and the other was Colson, who drove up as the shooting erupted. He jumped out of his car in plain clothes without a protective vest, pulled his firearm and started shooting back at Ford.
On Monday, Stawinski announced Colson was shot dead by friendly fire, and now, he has confirmed that shooting was intentional. It was, as he clarified for reporters Wednesday, a case of mistaken identity.
"I do not believe that any police officer intentionally fired at another police officer," Stawinski explained. "I believe a police officer fired at an armed individual whom they believed to be a threat."
So far, police have confirmed that four officers fired their weapons during those confusing minutes, but they haven't disclosed where those shots were fired from, or what kind of weapons were used. Authorities would only say that like any police shooting, there's a policy that requires them to review every aspect of a shooting, and that's what's happening.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Michael Ford fired more than 20 shots at the station, at least one officer, two vehicles and an ambulance.
In the bail hearing for Elijah and Malik Ford, a man who identified himself as the brothers' father said they had nothing to do with it, and what was being said was hearsay. But another family member told the judge that one of the brothers was videotaping the shooting, not because he wanted to be a YouTube celebrity, but because no one would believe him.