Grand Prairie, TX – The driver accused of triggering the pursuit that resulted in the death of Grand Prairie Police Department (GPPD) Officer Brandon Paul Tsai earlier this month was arrested on Wednesday using the fallen officer’s handcuffs.
Officer Tsai, 32, died in the line of duty on Nov. 14 while trying to stop a vehicle that was “displaying a fictitious paper license plate,” the GPPD said in a press release on Tuesday.
The driver refused to pull over, triggering a high-speed chase.
Officer Tsai clipped another patrol vehicle during the pursuit and subsequently crashed into a light pole.
He was rushed to Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injures, the GPPD said.
The suspect fled the scene.
GPPD Chief Daniel Scesney said investigators worked around the clock for days to track down the vehicle Officer Tsai had been chasing, KDFW reported.
“Our detectives and officers had a mediocre picture of a car with a fictitious license plate. That’s it. That’s what we had to go on,” Chief Scesney said, according to KXAS. “To solve a case like that is incredibly difficult and these cops did not stop until that occurred.”
“Not capturing this suspect was never an option for this department,” the chief added. “I told you all at the last press conference that we weren’t done… they proved me right.”
The public is invited to celebrate the life of Grand Prairie Police Officer Brandon Tsai.
— Grand Prairie Police (@GrandPrairiePD) November 16, 2022
The chief said the fictitious license plate displayed on the suspect vehicle had been scanned on more than 200 vehicles, KDFW reported.
Nearly 50 of those were for Chevrolet Malibus – the same vehicle the suspect had been driving, he said.
Investigators used the license plate camera scanning technology to hone in on a Chevrolet Malibu seen driving in the area of Main Street and Hensley multiple times, KDFW reported.
Police swept the area and found multiple other vehicles displaying the exact same fake plate numbers, including a Malibu without any plates that was parked outside a house in the 300-block of Hensley Drive.
Investigators said there were other vehicles outside the house that also displayed fake paper tags, KDFW reported.
Police were surveilling the home when someone drove off in another car that had been parked at that location.
Officers stopped the driver for a traffic violation and said that the driver told them the Malibu parked outside the house was the same one they were searching for, according to Chief Scesney.
GPPD officers obtained a search warrant for the residence and were searching the house when the Dallas Police Department (DPD) called them and advised they had received a call from a male who allegedly confessed to his involvement in the deadly chase, KDFW reported.
The DPD said the man didn’t want to be arrested by the GPPD and that he asked the DPD if he could turn himself in to them instead.
“Grand Prairie police officers, who also formerly served as Los Angeles PD officers, went to the scene and took Hoffman into custody with Officer Brandon Tsai’s handcuffs,” Chief Scesney said.
Officer Tsai served five years with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) prior to joining the GPPD in January.
“The message it sends to all the brothers and sisters who wear this badge is we are not going to stop until we catch the person he was chasing,” he added. “I think it sends a message to anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to come into Grand Prairie and commit crime. It’s not a good idea, because we don’t know how to quit.”
The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old Colbie Hoffman, KDFW reported.
Investigators said Hoffman was also wanted on eight warrants out of various cities in North Texas.
He was convicted of marijuana possession in Tarrant County in 2020 and sentenced to a term of probation, KDFW reported.
Hoffman has been charged with felony tampering with physical evidence and felony evading arrest and detention causing death in connection with Monday night’s pursuit.
Additional charges may be forthcoming, KDFW reported.
Chief Scesney said Hoffman has been very forthcoming with investigators and that he confessed to his role in Officer Tsai’s death, according to KXAS.
Police said they also arrested several other individuals who were at the home they’d been surveilling.
It is unclear what charges those suspects are facing.
Chief Scesney said tracking down and apprehending Hoffman was an “intensive and collaborative effort” that included the entire GPPD, as well as the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Dallas Fusion Center, and the DPD, KXAS reported.
He also pushed back against critics who have claimed that the officers shouldn’t have been chasing someone suspected of a so-called non-violent offense.
“We have a culture where individuals in our society feel emboldened to turn from police,” Chief Scesney said, according to KXAS. “If a police officer gets behind you and turns on his lights, you’re required to stop. I’ve had enough of this trying to blame the officer for his actions. It’s ridiculous.”
The GPPD’s next plan of action is to track down the source of the fake paper tag that was displayed on the suspect vehicle, according to the news outlet.
Although paper tags can be completely legitimate, they can also be easily copied, printed, and illegally sold, KXAS reported.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles announced on Thursday that it will be revamping the design of the paper tags and that they will also embed security features to help identify fakes more easily.
The new paper tags will be rolled out beginning Dec. 9.
“He was a loving friend, a trusted colleague and an outstanding officer whose passion was providing service to the public,” the GPPD said.
Chief Scesney said Officer Tsai was a valued member of the agency.
“Our nation lost a hero last night,” the chief said in a statement to WFAA. “Officer Brandon Tsai represented the very best among us and laid down his life protecting this city and all those who live within it.”
“Our hearts are broken but we are grateful to all those who have extended their thoughts and prayers to Brandon’s family including his entire extended family who wear blue,” he added.
The veteran officer will continue to serve others as an organ donor, KDFW reported.
The GPPD hed a vigil for Officer Tsai at police headquarters on Friday and he was laid to rest on Nov. 21.