Late last week, Michael DeAndre Ford called the woman who was once his legal guardian and told her he needed to talk, in person. Hyacinth Tucker was busy, she said, and pushed him off.
Ford traveled to South Carolina, where he turned violent during a weekend fight with his wife, authorities said. They said he then returned to Maryland with a plot to open fire on a Prince George’s County police station in the hope he would be shot to death.
Ford, 22, enlisted his two younger brothers to come along and videotape what would become a Sunday afternoon gun battle, police said. An officer who arrived at the Landover station amid the gunfire was killed, probably shot by a fellow officer during the chaos, police have said. Ford was wounded.
Michael Ford was officially charged with second-degree murder on Tuesday in the case that has drawn national attention.
Police said Tuesday that the gun used by Michael Ford — who reportedly had a history of mental illness and had a past conviction — was a stolen weapon. The Baltimore division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been helping Prince George’s County investigators “trace the life of the gun” used in the shooting, said Dave Cheplak, a spokesman for the agency.
Police officials have yet to say how it occurred that another officer probably fatally shot Officer Jacai Colson, 28. The county’s top prosecutor said that while the case against the Ford brothers will be complex given that Colson probably died by friendly fire, her office will aggressively pursue charges and bring them to a grand jury for review.
The younger Ford brothers in the case — Malik Ford, 21, of Fort Washington, and Elijah Ford, 18, of Landover — are expected to make appearances Wednesday in Prince George’s County District Court. It is unclear when Michael Ford would appear in District Court as he was still in the hospital as of Tuesday.
Immediate family members of the Fords continued to decline requests for interviews, but county schools officials said Tuesday that Elijah Ford was a junior at Bowie High School.
Michael Ford has had minor run-ins with the law over the years and struggled with bipolar disorder, according to family and court records. Those records also show Malik Ford coming to Michael’s aid and speaking on his behalf after facing previous encounters with the law.
On Tuesday, a court commissioner rejected second-degree murder and handgun charges against Ford’s younger brothers. Court commissioners determine whether there is probable cause to hold suspects or offer pretrial release. Malik and Elijah Ford have been charged — and are being held without bond — with attempted first-degree murder, assault, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said Tuesday that even though police said that Malik and Elijah Ford did not fire a gun at the officers, felony murder charges would be “absolutely” appropriate because police said the brothers acted as accomplices.
Prosecutors will present charges in the case to a grand jury, Alsobrooks said.
During the shootout, police asked the two brothers videotaping events in a car where the gunman was, according to charging documents released Tuesday.
Malik and Elijah Ford denied knowing Michael Ford’s location, the documents allege.
When approached by officers, Malik Ford “shouted he did not know, even though Michael Deandre Ford is clearly visible on the video hiding behind the police van,” charging documents state.
Cheplak, the ATF spokesman, said he could not speak to the specifics of where Michael Ford might have gotten the gun he used, but said “there’s a million ways that a gun winds up getting out of legal commerce.”
“When somebody purchases a firearm and they don’t take the proper measures to safeguard it from either being stolen or utilized by someone else,” Cheplak said, “then ultimately a chain of events can lead to the firearm winding up in the hands of the wrong person.”
Shante Ramos, the brothers’ 30-year-old aunt, said Michael has bipolar disorder and reacts badly when he doesn’t take his medications.
“Michael definitely needed help,” Ramos said. “It’s breaking my heart.”
Michael Ford’s arrest records in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and the District indicate that for a time he was homeless. Some of his crimes are petty, linked to his seeking food and shelter.
“I got put out when I was 16,” Ford testified at one hearing in Montgomery County, explaining what his guardian said was a separation from his mother. “I was forced to basically live on the street.”
In 2013, when Ford was living in an apartment in Wheaton with a friend from high school, the police came knocking on the door. Ford dumped a bag full of drugs, a gun and ammunition, documents state. Ford said the bag belonged to his roommate, but authorities charged Ford with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, illegal possession of a firearm and other counts.
Malik Ford testified at the trial about Michael’s life after he left home at 16.
“Sometimes he had to sleep in McDonald’s when he had nowhere to stay,” he said.
Ford’s attorney in the case, Donald Knepper, said Monday that he was shocked by the police shooting allegations. He said his strongest impression was that Ford wanted to stabilize his life after being homeless and having previous brushes with the law.
“He was trying to go right,” Knepper said. “He’d had a tough life. He was a survivor.”
A jury eventually acquitted Ford in the 2013 incident.
Tucker said that she talked to Ford frequently when he was in his teens but that the chats grew infrequent as he got older. Lately, she said, Ford called her about once a week to provide updates on his life — sometimes it was about jobs or that he had enrolled in classes at a community college.
Reflecting on Michael Ford’s recent call, Tucker said, “had I talked to him when he wanted to come by, maybe things would have been different.”
Tucker said she had come to watch over Ford when he befriended her son at the age of 16 and Ford was homeless. She described him as “a troubled person” who was “trying to do the right thing.”
Tucker said she never imagined “in a million years that he could do something like this.”
Peter Hermann, Dan Morse, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.