MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A University of South Alabama freshman was running through the streets nearly naked, screaming obscenities and claiming he was on a “spiritual quest” not long before he was shot by a campus police officer, two acquaintances said Monday.
Authorities have said 18-year-old Gil Collar of Wetumpka assumed a “fighting stance” and chased a police officer before the officer shot him around 1:30 a.m. outside the campus police station. Police say Collar was naked when he was shot. His mother, Bonnie Smith Collar, told The Associated Press that she was told by someone involved in the investigation that surveillance video shows Collar never touched the officer.
School officials have said nothing to indicate he was armed. Campus officers typically also carry a baton and pepper spray, though university officials refused to say whether the officer who shot Collar was carrying either.
The university said the officer heard a bang on a window at campus police headquarters and went outside to investigate. The officer tried to retreat numerous times to defuse the situation before opening fire, the university said in a news release.
Collar’s mother said she has received conflicting information about what might have happened before the shooting and declined to discuss it. But she asked people to withhold judgment until all the evidence comes out.
“Whatever caused the incident was something that made him act not in his normal personality,” she said.
Others agreed the actions were out of character for the normally quiet and reserved Collar, whom friends described as a popular and good-looking high school wrestler with a slight build, standing 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds. Collar wasn’t someone to make enemies and even befriended his opponents on the wrestling mat, said his high school wrestling coach, Jeff Glass.
Collar wasn’t known as a troublemaker and had only two minor scrapes with the law, according to court records: a speeding ticket and a citation for being a minor in possession of three cigarettes in March. He paid a $25 fine for the tobacco possession.
He was also so good-looking that his teammates didn’t like standing next to him in team photos.
“The girls thought he was the best thing they had ever seen, and they may have been right,” he said.
However, two people who knew Collar said he was out of sorts and appeared intoxicated from alcohol or something else the night he was killed. He was screaming profanities in the street and running around wearing only his boxer shorts, said South Alabama student Bronte Harber, 18, of Columbus, Ohio.
Sarah Hay, 18, of Dallas, said she saw Collar shirtless outside her on-campus residence shortly before Harber encountered him. Collar was the loudest of a group of four or five young men, she said, and some of the others were trying to get him to calm down.
“He was talking about being on a spiritual quest,” said Hay, but wasn’t making any sense. Hay, who described herself as an acquaintance of Collar, said he was removing his pants as she walked back inside.
Neither Harber nor Hay said they witnessed the confrontation between Collar and the officer.
A candlelight vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Wetumpka High School. Collar’s mother said funeral arrangements have not yet been made yet.
Rawls reported from Montgomery.
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