University police officer cleared in Alabama student’s death

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 16, 2015 12:13 PM

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) - A University of South Alabama police officer was cleared of civil wrongdoing in the shooting death of an 18-year-old freshman at its Mobile campus almost three years ago, officials said.

The ruling on Tuesday comes at a time of heightened public debate over police use of force after a spat of officer-involved deaths of suspects.

Officials said Gilbert Thomas Collar, who is white, was acting erratically on Oct. 6, 2012, running around naked and then pounded on the windows of the campus police station and took a “fighting stance.”

Officer Trevis Austin, who is black, was alone in the station and went out to investigate and felt threatened by Collar, officials said.

Collar was shot once in the chest after he ignored commands to stop and rushed at the officer, officials said.

The family’s lawsuit claimed that Collar was on an unspecified drug at the time and that he lost his ability to reason. The suit claimed that the officer should have recognized that and used non-lethal means to restrain him.

A judge in the U.S. District Court of Mobile County ruled that Austin was not liable in Collar's death.

A grand jury also previously cleared Austin of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting.

Bob Lowry, a spokesman for the university, said in a statement, “The events surrounding this incident are tragic. However, the university believes the court has reached the correct conclusion.”

The family’s attorney had no immediate comment and Austin, who remains on the campus police force, was not available for comment.

The family sought an unspecified amount of money, which they planned to use to set up a scholarship in Collar’s name.

(Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)