Never-before-released police dash cam video reveals new details in the death of Prince George's County police detective Jacai Colson.
Six years ago, Colson was shot and killed by a fellow police officer. It happened seconds after the department's District 3 police station was attacked by an active shooter.
Several officers worked to save Colson's life that day and were honored for their acts of valor, but one officer who says she held Colson as he died was erased from the story. Now she's speaking out in a story you'll see only on News4.
"Something Is Wrong"
In March 2016, a gunman fired at passing cars and at then at the Prince George’s County District 3 police station. Officers from around the region responded. For Mirian Perez, then a veteran Prince George's County officer, getting there was personal.
"As I'm driving priority to headquarters, I hear him; then after a while he stops talking — it's like you can feel that something was wrong."
Perez said she was on the phone with Prince George’s Police Detective Jacai Colson, whom she says was meeting her at District 3 to bring her lunch. She says the two were dating and he was the love of her life.
Colson was working undercover in an unmarked cruiser without a police radio. Perez said he couldn't have known what he was driving toward: an active shooter on a suicide mission.
According to court testimony, gunman Michael Ford wanted police to shoot and kill him. In a video will, Ford asked his brothers to record the attack for social media.
Perez heard what followed on her radio.
"I hear chaos," she recalls. "I hear, it's like a detective yelling for more units. He's yelling for a signal 13; for us, it means all hands on deck."
Perez went with News4 back to the scene where it all happened.
"I drove up, I had my windows down, and I heard him try to identify himself," she said.
In a never-before-released video, Colson is the person heard yelling "Police!", Perez says.
According to the police department, Colson fired the shot that took down the active shooter and allowed officers to arrest him.
In the video, Ford's brothers are heard reacting to that shot: "That's my brother."
Thirty seconds later, Officer Taylor Krauss fired at Colson. According to court testimony, he missed and fired again from behind a fence. His bullet killed Colson.
Perez recalls, "He had just been shot when I got to him."
She said what she remembers most about the moment is Colson's eyes.
"I was shielding him with my body, and I was holding him, and I looked at him and he was still yelling, "Police!" and said, "Baby, I got you."
Officers put Colson in the back of Perez's car, and she drove to the Prince George's County Hospital as another officer performed chest compressions on him.
"We get there, they take him into the emergency room, and after that, I just remember the chief coming up to me and saying, "I'm sorry, Mirian; Jacai is gone."
In grand jury testimony, Krauss said he thought Colson was the active shooter.
Colson's family later sued the police department, saying they weren't told the facts of what happened that day. The lawsuit says Colson did not match the gunman's description and that Krauss worked at a desk next to Colson at one point and should have recognized him, and that he shouldn't have fired through a fence if he couldn't.
"In my heart, I don't believe that he woke up that morning thinking to himself, 'I'm going to kill Jacai Colson," Perez said. "I think it was a horrible horrible mistake."
A grand jury found Krauss not criminally responsible for Colson's shooting.
"I Was Living With Survivor's Guilt"
Four of the officers who were there that day were awarded medals of valor. Colson's parents received posthumous honors on their son's behalf. But there was no mention of Perez.
"At the time, because I was living with survivor's guilt and I felt like I did this to him and I didn't save him, I was OK with the punishment, because I felt like I deserved this ... because i didn't save him," Perez said.
Perez says she went into a spiraling depression and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD.
She says she attempted to take her own life, but was saved by a friend's actions.
Perez says she decided to retire and requested medical disability due to her PTSD, which was diagnosed by two doctors and confirmed by the department's own doctor. She submitted her paperwork to the county's medical advisory board.
"The moderator pretty much said essentially, 'She should have never had to go through all this; she's clearly unfit for duty ... and that she deserves her medical pension," Perez said.
The hearing examiner's findings were confirmed in a letter, where he states that she proved her work-related disability and should be granted service-related disability and retirement. But Perez never got that disability. And after a lengthy battle, her attorney suggested she stop appealing.
Timothy J. Driscoll, the attorney who handled Perez's disability case, responded to our request for an interview with a statement that said in part, "Mirian's case stands out as one of the last I took against the various county disability retirement systems for public safety officers. The personal and professional toll was too acute [for me], I could no longer continue. The Systems were stacked against these Officers and were at best, generally unfair... I am hopeful both the Legislature and the Governor's Office can use Mirian's example as impetus for review and change."
"This Was My Purpose"
Perez has moved out of Maryland. She says she's now working with officers who have experienced trauma through her nonprofit. She says that after all she lost, she's determined to fight for others.
"I feel like this is what had to happen," she said. "This was my purpose; this was my passion; this is my 'why,' and I'm living it. I don't think a lot of people can say that."
The Colson family's lawsuit against the police department and the officer who fired the shot that killed Colson is still pending.
The Prince George's County Police department released a statement saying that while Perez was not mentioned in the narrative or offered to receive her award at the ceremony, she does have a silver valor award that they would like to give her now.
A spokesperson with the Prince George's County Human Relations said they could not comment on why Perez was not given medical disability because retirement and medical records are confidential.
In the last three years, six of the nine officers who requested medical disability were granted the benefit, according to the county's HR department.
The gunman from that day, Michael Ford, was sentenced to 195 years in prison. His brothers were sentenced to 12 and 20 years, respectively, for their parts in the crime.
Krauss is no longer with the department.