Prince George's County

Family of Slain Prince George’s Officer Files Wrongful Death Suit

Thousands throughout the nation paid homage on Father’s Day to men who’ve sacrificed time and money for their children and others all in the name of love.

Unfortunately, James Colson continues to grieve for the loss of his oldest son, Jacai, a Prince George’s County detective who was shot and killed by a fellow officer in March 2016 after three men ambushed a police station.

Colson and his wife, Shelia, stood across the street from the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro to listen to their attorney, Jason G. Downs of Baltimore, explain why the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last week against the county and Officer Taylor Krauss, who fired the fatal shot.

“When a police officer shoots first and asks questions later, the system fails us,” Downs said Thursday. “When the system fails, people lose faith in the courts and people lose faith in our community leaders. The family of Jacai Colson filed this lawsuit after losing faith in those very two things.”

Jacai Colson
Detective Jacai Colson (Courtesy of Prince George’s County Police Department)

When reporters asked the Colson family for any comment, Downs lightly tapped James Colson on the chest. Colson, holding a folded American flag with a button of his son pinned on his suit, said he couldn’t comment on the advice of his attorney.

Sheila Colson stood calmly next to her husband while holding a picture of their son dressed in his police uniform. Other family members attended the press conference in Upper Marlboro, but didn’t comment.

Downs said the family, who resides in Pennsylvania, has several family members who served in law enforcement including Jacai Colson’s grandfather.

When a grand jury chose in July 2016 not to indict Krauss, family members “were disappointed and outraged at the fact there were no criminal charges filed despite all the evidence,” Downs said.

“This is not an easy decision for the family of Jacai Colson,” he said. “This is a family that has believed in the rule of law. They wanted to get to the bottom of what happened to their son.”

John Erzen, spokesman for the county’s state’s attorney’s office, said Michael, Malik and Elijah Ford — the three brothers who attacked the police station — are responsible for the Colson’s death.

Erzen said Colson’s parents had access to documents in the office, call the office, receive updates on the investigation and walked the scene to where the shooting took place at District III police station in Palmer Park.

“We understand this is a grieving family and grieving over the loss of their son, their grandson and brother,” Erzen said. “We as a community grieve with them. From the standpoint of the criminal investigation, we believe that there has been 100 percent transparency and we have shared everything with them that we have.”

The March 2016 ambush was carried out by the three brothers, who decided to attack a police station and record the incident on cellphone video.

The lawsuit, filed six days before Father’s Day on June 11, alleges Krauss, who is White and remains on the police force, shot Colson despite 911 calls describing the suspect as heavyset Black man with dreadlocks.

Although Colson was Black, he stood 5-9 with an athletic build, a short Afro haircut and a beard, according to the suit. Plus, the suit claims, Krauss and Colson worked in the same building and adjacent desks.

Colson, 28, who served as an undercover officer and was off duty during the attack, assisted fellow officers and returned fire.

The suit said Colson could be heard shouting during the gunbattle, “Police! Police!” It also claims Krauss fired two shots from behind a wooden fence and a third, fatal shot about 95 yards away from behind a brick wall, hitting Colson in the chest. Police found Colson’s badge “laying between his left shoulder and left hand.”

“Krauss’ conduct lacked legal justification and was motivated by ill will, intent to injure, actual malice, or reckless disregard for human life,” according to the 14-page suit, which seeks an excess of $75,000 for compensatory and punitive damages.

In October 2017, Malik and Elijah Ford both pleaded guilty to various charges.

Malik Ford, 23, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted second-degree murder, use of a handgun in commission of a felony and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He will serve up to 20 years in prison.

Elijah Ford, 20, in school at the time of the shooting two years ago, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He will serve at least 12 years in prison.

Both will be sentenced after the October trial of their older brother, Michael Ford, 24. Authorities said he planned to shoot at the District III police station in Palmer Park and asked for his brothers’ help.

Michael Ford faces several charges, including second-degree murder, 11 counts of first-degree assault and six counts of attempted murder.

“Our heart goes out the Colson family,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “Their son was a beautiful officer for us. [Colson] put his life on the line to make Prince George’s County safer. They have to do as a family what they feel best. We want closure for the family, as much closer as possible.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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