CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

December 3, 2012

Parents of Ala freshman suing over campus killing

By JAY REEVES
Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The parents of a University of South Alabama freshman who was shot to death by campus police sued the school and others Monday over his death, claiming the killing violated policies and never should have happened.

The lawsuit, filed in Mobile County, seeks both an unspecified amount of money for the death of 18-year-old Gil Collar and court injunctions aimed at preventing similar deadly confrontations in the future, said Jere Beasley, a lawyer representing the student’s parents.

Collar was nude and likely on some type of drug the night he was killed outside the university police station, Beasley said, but he never touched the officer and the officer had no reason to open fire based on the university’s police weapons policy.

“It was totally unjustified,” Beasley said during a news conference.

The school declined comment.

“It is inappropriate to comment since the district attorney’s investigation is not complete,” said Keith Ayers, a university spokesman.

The lawsuit named the university; officer Trevis Austin, identified by authorities as the officer who shot Collar; Zeke Aull, the university police chief; and anyone else who evidence shows might have had a role in Collar’s death.

Austin has been on paid leave since the shooting, which happened in the early morning hours of Oct. 6.

Authorities have said Collar, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound high school wrestler who had only been at South Alabama a few weeks, banged on a door and windows of the university police station, prompting the officer to come outside with his gun drawn.

Collar, who was nude, acted aggressively toward the officer and stood in a fighting stance, authorities said. But both Mobile County investigators and Beasley said Collar never touched the officer or got any closer to him than a few feet.

Aside from money, the lawsuit asks a court to make the university provide additional training to officers and arm the school police force with non-lethal Taser weapons. The school has said Austin was also armed with a baton and pepper spray at the time Collar was killed.

While authorities had said evidence indicated Collar went to a music festival and took LSD before his death, Beasley said someone slipped some type of drug other than LSD or synthetic marijuana to Collar, who took the substance unknowingly.

Beasley said Collar’s family was “not in it for the money” and would likely use any money won in the lawsuit to establish a scholarship.

“They really want to prevent this from happening again,” he said.