Virginia Cop Details Confrontation With Firefighters

Virginia Beach Police Officer Bradley Colas was off-duty and on the antibiotic Biaxin when he attacked several firefighters said he thought they were demons.


The sun was just beginning to rise as Bradley Colas squeezed his eyes shut.

When he opened them, U.S. 13 stretched out before him. The Eastern Shore's tree-lined fields and weather-worn farmhouses whisked by.

He pressed hard on the accelerator of his 1999 Honda Civic.

He was in a hurry the morning of March 4. Somewhere in Philadelphia, he believed, there was evil to be vanquished.

In the predawn darkness, the rookie Virginia Beach police officer had strapped to his right hip his off-duty gun. He tucked a knife in his left pants pocket. Then he loaded his trunk with police gear and drove north, across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and up the Shore.

God wants to test my faith, he thought.

He flew past the mom-and-pop diners, the seafood shacks, the motels that had long since billed their last guests.

The world seemed to move at half speed as his speedometer inched up toward 100 mph - almost double the speed limit.

Again, he closed his eyes.

 A few days earlier, Bradley Colas was just a 23-year-old with bronchitis.

The officer, two months out of the academy, had time before his overnight shift started at 9 p.m., so he went to his doctor and got a prescription for a common antibiotic - Biaxin. A pharmacist filled the order with a generic version, clarithromycin, and handed Colas a two-page drug-information packet.

He took the first pill and reported to work in the city's northwestern 3rd Precinct.

When he went off duty around 7 a.m., he popped the next dose.

By the time he took the fourth pill two days later, Colas suspected something wasn't right. Insomnia had set in, and the officer - normally a quiet, private person - began to feel more outgoing.

"I feel like I'm having some kind of manic episode," he told a pharmacist.

That can't be from the antibiotic, the pharmacist said, advising him to keep taking it.

Colas called the nurse at his doctor's office for a second opinion. They agreed he would take one more dose of the antibiotic and stop if the symptoms continued.

He gulped down the fifth pill. It was the last he would take.

But the episodes didn't stop as he expected. Instead, waves of hallucinations and paranoia consumed Colas. The parts of his life that were important to him - law enforcement and religion - were twisted until, after just a few days, he no longer resembled himself.

God began talking to Colas through his television, sending him messages he would scrawl in a little black notebook. At the movie theater, the officer interpreted "Act of Valor," a film about Navy SEALs, as divine instruction to protect them.

An overwhelming sense of impending doom rushed over the officer as sleepless hours ticked by. He dashed off his goodbyes on yellow sticky notes and left them around his apartment. He wasn't suicidal; he simply believed it was his time to die.

He called his brother and parents at all hours, often waking them. He hadn't slept for days, he told his father in one of the early-morning calls. Fear of spiritual warfare stopped him from turning out the lights.

From upstate New York, Craig Colas repeatedly begged his son to rest.

"If you just get to sleep, I think you're going to think more clearly," he told his son.

The car was flying up the Eastern Shore when Colas came to a bend in the road. He couldn't slow down. The car ran off the side, clipped a sign and a crape myrtle bush and stopped in a barren cornfield.

The fact that he was alive was a sign from God, Colas believed. He popped the trunk, gathered his things and phoned for a state trooper. His voice was steady and calm.

"Yeah, I need a ride," he told a dispatcher. "I got in a car accident. Um, I'm on mile marker 128 on 13 North in Hallwood. So I just need you to get a cop out here to help me out."

"You were involved in an accident?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yeah, single-car accident," he replied. "I was going too fast."

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