Landover, MD – The family of an undercover detective who was fatally shot by a fellow officer as they both responded to a chaotic ambush outside the Prince George’s County Police headquarters in 2016 announced they settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the county this week.
Attorneys representing the family of Prince George’s County Police Detective Jacai Colson held a press conference on May 11 to discuss the case, WTTG reported.
The $400,000 settlement is the largest amount allowed under state law, according to WJLA.
The lawsuit centered on the assertion that now-former Prince George’s County Police Officer Taylor Krauss showed a “reckless disregard for human life,” when he repeatedly fired his weapon at 28-year-old Det. Colson after a gunman attacked police headquarters on Mar. 13, 2016, The Washington Post previously reported.
The family further alleged that Prince George’s County officials were aware or should have been aware that Officer Krauss was “unfit for his duties,” and claimed that he killed Det. Colson due to his “intentional and reckless conduct,” WTOP reported.
Det. Colson and Officer Krauss were among the swarm of police who flooded the area as 24-year-old Michael Ford began shooting at the entryway doors of the Prince George’s County police headquarters building that day.
Michael Ford’s younger brothers, Malik Ford and Elijah Ford, recorded the mayhem on their cell phones as their brother fired indiscriminately at vehicles and law enforcement officers, The Washington Post reported.
Det. Colson, an undercover narcotics officer who was dressed in street clothes, fired 11 rounds at the gunman, then ran down the street towards a community center to get to safety while his fellow officers took Michael into custody, The Washington Post reported.
Officer Krauss mistakenly believed that the plainclothes detective was one of the shooters and fired at him twice from behind a wooden fence, in order to protect another officer who pulled up to the scene in a marked patrol vehicle.
The officer then fired a third round at the detective from behind a wall, fatally hitting him.
According to the lawsuit, Det. Colson identified himself as an officer over the police radio in the moments before he was killed.
“Detective Colson’s badge was found laying between his left shoulder and left hand,” the lawsuit noted.
The detective’s family argued that Det. Colson did not fit the description of the shooter, and that Officer Krauss should have recognized the plainclothes detective because they worked together, The Washington Post reported.
“Complete accountability means holding Officer Taylor Krauss responsible for recklessly firing his weapon under circumstances where no reasonable officer would have fired,” the family said in a statement through their attorney, Jason G. Downs. “Indeed, no other officer fired at Detective Colson, underscoring the reckless and senseless nature of Officer Krauss’ actions.”
Over the course of seven weeks, a grand jury studied the evidence collected from the scene, traveled to the location of the shooting, and confronted issues involving racial bias, The Washington Post reported.
“Those were all things that the grand jury had a full opportunity to discuss and ask questions about,” then-Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said. “We also explored all of that with them and what the relationships were between all the officers.”
The grand jury ultimately declined to indict Officer Krauss on charges of murder or manslaughter.
Officer Krauss had been with the department for approximately eight years by that time, but is no longer employed there, WTTG reported.
During the press conference on Wednesday, attorney Malcolm Ruff remained adamant that race played a role in the fatal shooting, according to WJLA.
“Jacai Colson was a black man. Taylor Krauss is a white officer. The shooters in this case, and by shooters I’m talking about the Ford brothers, and Michael Ford, were black,” Ruff told reporters. “The only justification that could be provided is that Taylor Krauss thought that Jacai Colson was somehow involved in this shooting. So, if you want to know if this case is about race, it is. There’s no way to separate race out of this case.”
Despite the fact that Officer Krauss was cleared by a grand jury, Det. Colson’s family blasted the police department for allowing him to remain on the force.
“We’re talking about a young black man, 28 years old, getting shot down doing his job,” James Colson said during the press conference. “That officer has not been accountable for any of [this]. They let [Krauss] remain in the police department. He got 10 years of service, and I think they let him slip out the back door and retire.”
Alsobrooks, who was the state’s attorney at the time the case was presented to the grand jury, disputed allegations made by Det. Colson’s family that she didn’t thoroughly explain the circumstances of the case, WTOP reported.
“I went over every shred of evidence, answered every single question they had,” Alsobrooks said. “I’ve never heard anyone say the office was an office that operated without integrity during the time I was state’s attorney.”
Det. Colson’s family said they have not given up on their push to have now-former Officer Krauss charged criminally, WTOP reported.
On Oct. 10, 2017, Malik Ford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and use of a handgun in commission of a felony, The Washington Post reported.
He was sentenced to 20 years.
Elijah Ford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder on the same date and was sentenced to 12 years behind bars.
Michael Ford was convicted of murder and was sentenced to approximately 200 years in prison, WTTG reported.