195 years for US man who fired on police station
A gunman sentenced to 195 years in prison for an attack on a police station apologised on Thursday to the parents of an undercover narcotics detective who was mistakenly shot and killed by a fellow officer during the ambush.
Before a judge sentenced him, Michael Ford said he didn't intend to harm anybody but himself when he opened fire on a Prince George's County police station in March 2016. In November, a jury convicted Ford, 25, of second-degree murder in the killing of Detective Jacai Colson even though he didn't fire the shot that killed the four-year veteran of the county's police department.
"That man does not deserve to be dead. I should be dead," Ford told Colson's parents.
Before hearing Ford's apology, James and Sheila Colson criticised authorities for not seeking criminal charges against the officer who killed their son. Jacai Colson exchanged gunfire with Ford before Officer Taylor Krauss fatally shot the plainclothes detective with a rifle, mistaking him for a threat.
Sheila Colson described Krauss as careless and reckless and said she believes her son was killed because he was black. Ford also is black. Krauss is white.
"Not once did I get an, 'I'm sorry,' from Taylor Krauss. Not once," she said.
She and her husband also accused police officials of lying to them about the circumstances of their son's death, misleading them to believe he was caught in a crossfire.
"To this day, no one can give me an explanation for why my son was shot," she said, fighting back tears.
Ford's two younger brothers, Malik and Elijah Ford, drove him to the police station and recorded video of the shooting with their cellphones. Though not accused of firing any shots, they pleaded guilty to related charges and were sentenced on Thursday to 20 and 12 years in prison, respectively.
Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. told Malik and Elijah that they "sold their brother down the river out of greed" for the car he promised to leave them. The judge told Michael Ford that he has no doubt he tried to kill officers and civilians even if he intended to die himself.
"You are responsible for the death of Jacai Colson," he said.
Ford testified he was trying to get himself killed by police when he fired his handgun nearly two dozen times outside the station. He said he didn't intend for anyone else to be harmed.
A 'combat zone'
County prosecutor Joseph Ruddy argued Ford's actions created a "combat zone" and caused Colson's death even though he didn't fire the fatal shot. Ford didn't hit anybody when he fired 23 shots from a handgun, but bullets he fired struck two passing vehicles and an ambulance, according to Ruddy.
"That was no suicide mission. That was a mission to kill cops," the prosecutor said during the trial's closing arguments.
Krauss testified that he never saw Colson hold up a badge or heard him identify himself as a police officer before shooting him once in the chest.
A grand jury declined to indict Krauss on any charges related to Colson's shooting. Colson's parents sued Krauss and Prince George's County.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who was serving as the county's top prosecutor when Michael Ford was charged and tried, said she "spent many hours walking the Colsons through every piece of evidence, walking the crime scene with them, and we answered every question they had".
"Ultimately a grand jury of 23 Prince Georgians reviewed that evidence and declined to indict Officer Krauss," Alsobrooks said in a statement. "I can never begin to understand what they feel as grieving parents, and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Colson family."
Video footage of the shooting
Ford's brothers recorded cellphone videos of the ambush after dropping him off at the station in Landover, a suburb of Washington, DC. They agreed to film the shooting so the video could be sent to a website known for posting users' violent videos, a police detective testified in 2016.
One of the videos shows Ford screaming obscenities and shouting, "Do something!" in between shots. Ford, then 22, also dictated his last will and testament on video minutes before his brothers dropped him off at the station.
Ford said he was hearing voices in his head on the day of the shooting. He said he retrieved a gun from a safe in his car and held it to his head.
"I couldn't pull the trigger," he testified at trial.
Hill ruled before the trial that Ford couldn't present an insanity defense despite his serious mental health issues.
Antoini Jones, Ford's attorney, told jurors that Colson didn't match the gunman's description apart from his race. At the start of the trial, Jones said the evidence would show the detective was shot "because he was black".
Colson was a 28-year-old native of Boothwyn, Pennsylvania.
Colson and Krauss had worked in the narcotics unit together and sat at connecting desks.
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