An undercover detective fatally shot by a fellow officer as they responded to a shootout in front of Prince George’s County police headquarters had his badge in his hand and was shouting “Police! Police!” before he was killed, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit the slain officer’s family filed Monday.
The lawsuit asserts that the officer who killed Prince George’s Detective Jacai Colson in 2016 showed a “reckless disregard for human life” by shooting with a view obstructed by a fence at someone who did not match the suspect description radioed to law enforcement.
The lawsuit in Prince George’s County Circuit Court was filed against the officer who shot Colson, Taylor Krauss, and the county.
Colson gave his life protecting his community and fellow officers, the Colson family said in a statement, and the lawsuit seeks “complete accountability for Jacai’s death.”
“Complete accountability means holding Officer Taylor Krauss responsible for recklessly firing his weapon under circumstances where no reasonable officer would have fired,” according to the family’s statement, sent through Baltimore-based lawyer Jason G. Downs. “Indeed, no other officer fired at Detective Colson, underscoring the reckless and senseless nature of Officer Krauss’ actions.”
Krauss, who has been with the department about eight years, is being represented by the county attorney and remains on the force. He declined to comment on the lawsuit when reached through the county police union.
A grand jury that met for seven weeks to review evidence in the case declined to indict Krauss on charges of murder or manslaughter four months after the shooting.
The lawsuit stems from a March 16, 2016, attack on the police station in Palmer Park, Md., in the suburbs of Washington. Police officers, including Krauss and Colson, swarmed the area after a man later identified as Michael DeAndre Ford fired shots at the station’s doors, at officers and randomly at cars and an ambulance while the shooter’s two younger brothers, Malik and Elijah Ford, recorded the incident on their cellphones.
Colson arrived at the scene in street clothes and began firing at the shooter. During the chaos, Krauss mistook Colson as an additional assailant and fired, thinking he was protecting a police officer pulling up in a marked cruiser, police and prosecutors have previously said.
The lawsuit asserts that calls to 911 described the man firing randomly as a heavyset black man with dreadlocks and in a black jacket. Colson, according to the lawsuit, had an athletic build — at about 5-9 and 156 pounds — and wore a short Afro and a beard. The lawsuit also noted that Colson and Krauss had worked in the same building and at adjacent desks.
After Colson arrived, he got out of a car and fired 11 times at the man shooting at the station before the shooter fell to the ground. Two officers disarmed and detained Ford as Colson ran down the street to a community center for safety. Krauss had fired at Colson twice from the parking lot through a wooden fence and missed. After the shooter was down, Krauss fired a third shot from behind a wall — the fatal hit to Colson.
Before he was struck, the lawsuit said, Colson could be heard on police radio shouting, “Police! Police!”
“Detective Colson’s badge,” the lawsuit asserts, “was found laying between his left shoulder and left hand.”
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s “thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Colson family,” county spokesman Scott Peterson said. “He understands that the filing of the lawsuit is the family’s way of seeking redress for their loss. This matter will ultimately be left to the courts to determine the outcome of this case.”
The grand jury that heard testimony on Krauss’s actions had to consider whether he was negligent and “whether or not the actions of this officer in the mind of a reasonable person acting in his position would have been reckless,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said when announcing that the grand jury had declined to indict Krauss.
Colson’s work as an undercover officer probably played into the grand jury’s decision, Alsobrooks said. The grand jury also considered local and national concerns about race-based policing and implicit bias, Alsobrooks said. Colson was black and Krauss is white.
Of the three brothers arrested in the incident, Michael DeAndre Ford has been charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder in the shooting and is awaiting trial. His younger brothers, Malik Ford and Elijah Ford, who police say drove their brother to the scene and recorded the shooting on cellphones as it unfolded, pleaded guilty in their cases.