A Maryland man convicted of murder for launching an attack on a police station that left an undercover narcotics detective dead was sentenced to 195 years in prison Thursday.
The sentencing of Michael Deandre Ford, 25, comes almost three years after he engaged Prince George’s County police in a shooting that fatally wounded officer Jacai Colson, 28.
Although Colson was killed by a fellow officer who mistook him as the gunman firing at the station, a Prince George’s County jury convicted Ford in November of second-degree murder for creating the conditions that led to the deadly shooting.
Before Colson’s mother and father told the court how the killing has affected them, they placed a framed photo of their son in his dress uniform on display.
Sheila Colson said she had hoped for the past three years that her son’s death was just a bad dream. “I stand here and reality keeps setting in,” she said. “It’s not a dream; it’s constant pain.”
As she described the grief she’s endured and what her son meant to his friends, family and colleagues, sheriff’s deputies passed around boxes of tissues to the roomful of sniffling and teary-eyed officers.
Between her own bouts of crying, Sheila Colson shook with rage, offering a searing rebuke of Prince George’s County officials who did not charge the officer she called “careless” and “reckless” who fired on her son.
Two of Ford’s younger brothers, who drove him to the police station in Palmer Park, Md., and recorded the shooting, also were sentenced Thursday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Elijah Ford, 21, was sentenced to 12 years after earlier pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Malik Ford, 24, was sentenced to 20 years for attempted second-
degree murder, use of a handgun in commission of a felony and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
In addition to murder, Michael Ford was found guilty of 30 counts of assault and weapons charges after an eight-day trial.
Prosecutors argued Michael Ford “created a combat zone” outside the station that resulted in Colson’s killing on March 13, 2016. They said he was seeking infamy and had instructed his brothers to post video of the shooting on a viral video website.
Michael Ford testified that he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone but himself. He told the jury that he was suffering from suicidal thoughts the morning of the shooting and fired at the station to draw gunfire and die at the hands of police.
On Thursday, he apologized for his actions, saying that because his mental-health issues went untreated, “a good man” is dead.
“That man does not deserve to be dead,” he said. “I should be dead.”
During his trial testimony, Ford said that he went to the police station and opened fire because he believed police shoot black men and would shoot him.
But Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence V. Hill dismissed that explanation. Hill said Ford fired at a black mother and child, a black man who was driving by the station and at an ambulance that serves a mostly black community in Palmer Park.
“Don’t make this about race when you showed less concern for your own race,” Hill said.
Hill laid responsibility for Colson’s death on Ford.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said. “The ripple effects of what you did that day cannot be calculated. . . . There are a number of people whose lives are not going to be saved because Jacai Colson is not here.”
Ford had recorded what he said were his last words before heading to the police station in his red Honda Accord with his brothers. Video aired at trial showed that once Ford was outside the station, he fired at the doors of the building, passing cars, officers responding to the scene and at an ambulance.
Colson arrived at the scene moments into the shooting, according to trial testimony.
The undercover drug officer in street clothes had been heading into work for an overtime shift and immediately began to engage Ford in a gun battle. The gunfire exchanged between Ford and Colson allowed other officers to get into position to take down Ford, police and prosecutors said.
But shortly after coming on scene, Colson collapsed.
Officer Taylor Krauss, who testified he believed that the plainclothes detective was the gunman ambushing the police station, fired a single fatal shot at Colson.
“Had I known it was a police officer, I never would have taken a shot,” testified Krauss, who was cleared by a grand jury in Colson’s shooting.
Krauss testified that he heard a description of the gunman attacking the police station — a “number one male,” or police vernacular for a male African American. Krauss said he shot at Colson because he matched the attacker’s description.
Colson’s family has a pending civil suit against the county and Krauss.
The lawsuit asserts Colson had his badge in hand and was yelling “Police!” when he was shot. The lawsuit also claims Colson did not match the description of the gunman attacking the police station.
Calls to 911 about the shooting described a heavyset black man with dreadlocks and in a black jacket, the lawsuit states, but Colson had an athletic build and wore a short Afro and beard.
At the sentencing hearing Thursday, Colson’s mother said she and her husband, James, said Krauss should have been taken off the force and charged in their son’s killing. “I could not for the life of me understand why Taylor Krauss shot my son,” Sheila Colson said. “I had come to the realization that Jacai was murdered because he was black.”
Krauss declined to comment through the police union.
The Colsons said they were initially led to believe their son died in police crossfire during the chaos. But they said they later learned that their son was shot after Ford was subdued and a cease-fire declared on police radio.
During the sentencing, Ford’s attorney played audio in court of gunfire from that day. Gunshots are heard that Ford’s attorney described as the exchange between Ford and officers. Then after a pause of about 30 seconds — after Ford was in custody — a loud bang sounded of the shot that killed Colson.
Colson’s mother addressed Ford on Thursday. “Michael, no you did not kill Jacai,” she said. “He survived a gun battle with you only to lose his life to a careless, reckless colleague.”
The police department did not address the Colsons’ accusations made in court but issued a statement from Chief Hank Stawinski.
“The sentences as rendered today can never assuage the pain, loss and the years of healing that remain before us all. I appreciate deeply the decisions that the citizens of Prince George’s County have made in these matters on behalf of their defenders,” Stawinski said. “I wish peace upon the Colson family, this institution, and our community.”
Angela Alsobrooks, who now is the county executive but had been state’s attorney, said as the chief prosecutor, she handled each case “with the utmost integrity and transparency. I spent many hours walking the Colsons through every piece of evidence, walking the crime scene with them, and we answered every question they had.”
Ultimately a county grand jury reviewed the evidence and declined to indict Krauss, she noted. “ I can never begin to understand what they feel as grieving parents, and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Colson family,” Alsobrooks said.