A community is torn and emotions are raw after the shooting death of an officer, while detectives begin the solemn work of determining what led two men to enter a police precinct and open fire.
Outside the Prince George’s County Hospital Sunday evening, a group of three dozen officers held hands and bowed their heads in prayer as the sun set. Hours later, they would find out one of their own was lost in what police said was an unprovoked shooting near county police headquarters.
“One of your defenders, Jacai Colson … lost his life in defense of this county,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski at an evening press briefing.
His police badge wrapped in a black band, it was his job to break the grim news to the community and his law enforcement family.
He choked back tears as he spoke about the officer, a four-year veteran who worked undercover as a member of the department's narcotics division.
His birthday was to be this week, Stawinski said.
“He was a tremendous personality,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89 President John Teletchea, speaking in a measured tone seeming to remember Officer Colson fondly.
County state's attorney Angela Alsobrooks shook her head as an arm was put around her shoulder before she spoke.
“We have another mother, tonight, who is without her son. We are deeply sorry. Deeply sorry,” she said.
According to authorities, the shooting happened at about 4:30 p.m. when police said two men walked into the district three location of their department and opened fire. Coulson was struck and “several” other officers returned fire, striking one suspect.
The man, identified officially only as a 24-year-old male, was taken to the same hospital where Colson succumbed to his injuries.
The suspect is expected to survive officials said.
A second suspect ran away before being caught a short time later near a Popeye’s restaurant not far from where the shooting occurred.
Erica Thomas said she went to the hospital after hearing from her brother that her nephew was shot by police, but did not know his condition. She was frantic as she approached a group of reporters and asked if anyone knew the condition of her nephew.
Thomas identified the suspects, whom she said were brothers, but police would not confirm their identities Sunday evening.
Thomas said she did not know why her nephew would walk into a police building and open fire, as authorities said the suspect had done.
“That’s what we want to know. What caused this? We don’t know,” Thomas said before two detectives approached her and began asking her questions.
Colson’s death marks the third on-duty death in Maryland this year after two deputies were killed in Harford County last month.
A rookie police officer was also killed last month in Virginia during her first day on duty.
This one hit hard.
“[We will] do our best to make sure this never happens again,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker speaking in front of the press.
Baker said that meant ensuring "that young man — who is about the same age as my son — that we don’t have other young men and women lose their lives.”
Stawinkski said he was leaving the state to Sunday night to meet with Colson’s family.