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A plainclothes narcotics officer killed in a shootout at a Maryland police station was remembered Friday for his infectious smile and devotion to his job and the people around him.
Prince George's County Detective Jacai Colson was killed March 13 after a man fired at a police station in Landover, and officers returned fire, officials said. Fire from the gun of one of those officers struck Colson.
Thousands of mourners, including police officers from several states, remembered the life of the 28-year-old Pennsylvania native. Friends and relatives remembered Colson's big heart, his dedication to those he loved and his playful manner.
Colson's mother, Sheila, remembered her son trying to cheer her up at her grandfather's funeral when he was just 2 1/2 by jumping on her lap and calling for a "hundred kisses."
"He was truly special from the day he was born," she said, noting that Jacai was born three months early. "He fought to get here and he fought going down. So we're at peace, Jacai is calm and I know that infectious smile that he had, he's grinning down and he saying, `Yeah mom, that's my mom, that's my mom."'
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told those gathered that though Colson's life was just beginning, he left a lasting mark as a leader who was always ready to lend a helping hand.
"When many run from danger and adversity, Jacai ran toward it," Hogan said. "Where others would back down in fear, he stood on the front lines. The legacy of Detective Jacai Colson is that of a beloved son, grandson and brother and it is the enduring legacy of a proud, brave member of the thin blue line."
County Executive Rushern Baker said those called to protect aren't trying to be heroes; they are just doing what they were called to do.
"He loved his job and the people he swore to protect," he said. "It was that unintentional valor that enabled him to stand in the face of danger and not blink or waiver. He dedicated his life to making this county safe and he died protecting us, all of us."
Three brothers who live near the police station where the shootout occurred have been charged in the gunfight, which police have described as an attempt by the oldest brother, 22-year-old Michael Ford, to provoke officers into killing him.
Police said Ford's brothers, 21-year-old Malik Ford and 18-year-old Elijah Ford, aided him before and during the shootout and recorded the gunfight with their cellphones.
Michael Ford faces more than two dozen charges, including second-degree murder. Malik and Elijah face charges including attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. All three were denied bail and have preliminary hearings next month.
Relatives made emotional pleas at a bail hearing for the two younger brothers, trying to distance them from Michael's actions, saying they were not armed and their involvement was minimal. A public defender for the younger brothers declined to comment. Online court records do not list an attorney for Michael Ford.