Driver arrested in connection with crash that killed Texas police officer

Colbie Hoffman, 22, faces a charge of evading arrest and detention, causing the death of Officer Brandon Paul Tsai


By James Hartley, Domingo Ramirez Jr.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — A 22-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night in connection with the traffic death of a Grand Prairie police officer, police announced at a news conference Thursday.

Grand Prairie police identified the suspect as Colbie Hoffman, who was taken into custody after he called Dallas police to turn himself in. He faces a charge of evading arrest and detention, causing death.

Grand Prairie police Officer Brandon Paul Tsai, 32, was killed Monday night after his squad car hit another officer’s car and then a light pole while police were chasing Hoffman’s vehicle, officials said. The chase started after Tsai noticed the car had a fake paper license plate.

Authorities said Hoffman fled the scene after the crash. The car involved in the case, a Chevy Malibu, has been recovered and is being processed for additional evidence, police said Thursday.

Grand Prairie Police Chief Daniel Scesney said Hoffman has confessed and has been “very forthcoming” in interviews with investigators.

Scesney said he was told by Dallas police that Hoffman, when turning himself in, said he didn’t want to be arrested by Grand Prairie police and was tipped off by someone that officers were watching his home.

Scesney said Hoffman was located by officers who refused to go home from work until the driver of the vehicle was caught. They used around 6,000 images captured by cameras across the city and on police vehicles to find an area in which the Malibu had been spotted multiple times, near Hensley Drive and Main Street.

With only a “mediocre” image of the car that Tsai was pursuing Monday night, Scesney said, investigators faced a near impossible task of finding the vehicle and its driver but were not going to stop investigating until they did.

“Not capturing this suspect was never an option for this department,” Scesney said.

Officers began canvassing the area and found several other vehicles with identical fake paper plates, the chief said. Eventually, they found a car that matched the description of the one Tsai and another officer had been chasing at a residence in the area and set up surveillance on the home.

While they were watching the home, officers saw a different vehicle leave and initiated a stop for a traffic violation, Scesney said. The driver confirmed the vehicle without any plates found at the home was the one involved in the chase and identified Hoffman as the driver, he said.

Around that same time, Scesney said, Grand Prairie police received a call from Dallas police that Hoffman had turned himself in.

Officers who worked with Tsai during his time with the Los Angeles police and are now employed by Grand Prairie police drove to Dallas and took Hoffman into custody using Tsai’s handcuffs.

“That’s significant for us,” Scesney said. “The message it sends to our blue brothers and sisters is that we will not stop until we find the person who does something like this. It also sends a message that you don’t want to come into Grand Prairie and commit a crime. It’s not a good idea.”

Responding to opinions shared by some that Tsai should not have tried to pursue the driver, Scensey said the only person responsible for the death of a police officer during a chase is the person who decides to flee.

“We have a culture that emboldens people to run and I’ve had enough of this trying to blame the officer,” Scesney said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Scesney said at a news conference Tuesday that fictitious paper tags are a major problem in North Texas and are becoming more prevalent. He said that, according to the latest numbers available to him, more than 200 fake plates have been spotted around North Texas in recent months. They make it more difficult for police to solve crimes, including violent crimes, and can put officers’ lives in danger, he said.

“Quite frankly, it cost a cop his life,” Scesney said.

A vigil will be held at the Grand Prairie Police Department on Friday at 6 p.m. The public also is invited to attend a memorial service at 11 a.m. Monday at Gateway Church, 2404 N. Carrier Parkway.

People have already flocked to the department to lay flowers, cards, flags and other things on a Grand Prairie police patrol vehicle in remembrance of Tsai.

Tsai joined the Grand Prairie Police Department in January. Prior to moving to Texas, he served five years with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Scesney described Tsai as someone who cared about his community and was the exemplification of what a police officer should be. He had family in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but he also called some people in the community in which he lived and worked his family.

“This is devastating,” Scesney said Tuesday. “It’s devastating. He’s a good cop and we all miss him already.”

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is examining the case to determine if enhanced charges are appropriate, police said in a Thursday news release.

The evading charge is a second-degree felony, for which Hoffman’s bond has been set at $250,000. He also faces a charge of tampering with physical evidence, a third-degree felony, and his bond on that charge is $25,000.

Tsai tried to stop the car near SW 3rd Street and Pioneer Parkway around 10:45 p.m. Monday, police have said. He died in Methodist Dallas Medical Center later that night from his injuries.

Hoffman also was booked on eight additional Class C misdemeanor warrants out of Waxahachie, Bedford, Desoto and Grand Prairie that were outstanding at the time the crash, police said.

“Capturing Hoffman was a very intensive and collaborative effort that included every bureau of the GPPD, as well as the Dallas Police, the Dallas Fusion Center, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as others in a variety of capacities,” Grand Prairie police said in the release.

©2022 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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