Ordered by three masked and armed men to get on the ground, the cable installer and father of two lay down on the street, in front of a white sedan. Trying to escape the would-be robbers, the woman in the driver’s seat stepped on the gas.

In what police call a “tragic accident,” the Lanham woman, 28, ran over Bradford A. McCoy, 30, early Sunday in a Capitol Heights neighborhood. The Landover man, whom family members described as a loving father and protective son, was killed. The masked men fled.

“The police said she got startled by these robbers and hit the accelerator,” said Jamais Young, 49, McCoy’s cousin. “It is a bizarre thing, but right now, it’s two young kids that lost a father, and we have to keep it in perspective.”

Family members said they do not know what McCoy was doing — or whom he was with — when he was killed. Police said he was standing in the 1200 block of Oates Street, near three other men and the woman in the car. McCoy did not know the woman, though he did know another man there, said Julie Parker, a Prince George’s County police spokeswoman. It was not clear why the woman was there or whether she knew any of the men in the group.

Shortly after midnight, three would-be robbers carrying handguns approached and ordered everyone to get on the ground, said Cpl. Larry Johnson, another police spokesman. The men complied, he said. Trying to get away, the woman in the car accelerated, he said.

“Unfortunately, one of them was in front of the vehicle,” Johnson said.

The woman stopped and remained at the scene until authorities arrived, police said. Police said Monday that they were searching for the would-be robbers.

Relatives said McCoy, the father of a 10-year-old boy and a 7-month-old girl, had worked as a security guard but most recently was installing cable for Comcast. In his spare time, he enjoyed watching sports and going to the movies and playing video games with his son, family members said.

“He was a gift from God to me,” said Annie Milbourne, 61, McCoy’s mother. “He strived to do the best he could.”

Milbourne said she spoke to her son Saturday as she tried to make arrangements to fly with him to Mississippi to bury his uncle and aunt, who died last week. She and Young said relatives have pushed those funeral arrangements to the coming weekend and intend to have McCoy’s funeral after that.

“I cry a little bit, but God got me totally in his hands,” Milbourne said.

Johnson declined to name the driver who struck McCoy. Investigators say they think she was a victim in the incident, he said. Parker said the woman will not be charged because there is no indication that she intended to run over McCoy or had any connection to the gunmen.

Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.