Police: Student took LSD before campus shooting

Associated Press Modified: October 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012
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MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A nude University of South Alabama freshman had taken LSD and assaulted others before he chased the campus police officer who fatally shot him, authorities said Tuesday, though the student wasn't armed and didn't touch the officer.

Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran said at a news conference that 18-year-old Gil Collar took the potent hallucinogen during a music festival Saturday before assaulting two people in vehicles and attempting to bite a woman's arm.

Authorities said Collar then went to the campus police headquarters, where he was shot by university police officer Trevis Austin. Austin is on leave while investigators review the shooting.

Video taken by a surveillance camera showed Collar nude and covered in sweat as he pursued the retreating officer more than 50 feet outside the building, Cochran said. Collar got within 5 feet of Austin and the officer fired once, striking the student in the chest, Cochran said.

Cochran said Austin came out of police headquarters with his gun drawn after he heard Collar — a 5-foot-7, 135-pound former high school wrestler — banging on a door. While campus police typically carry pepper spray and a baton, Cochran said Austin was armed only with a gun during the confrontation.

An attorney for Collar's family questioned why the officer wasn't able to use nonfatal means to subdue him.

"Obviously something caused him to act in manner that was somewhat unusual. It still does not justify shooting him down unless there is something we totally missed," said former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley, who's representing the family.

The sheriff said it was unclear whether the officer could have avoided the shooting even if he had a non-lethal weapon.

"Had the officer had a Taser or some other less lethal instrument I don't know if that officer would have had an opportunity to shoulder his pistol and to use something else because the events were evolving so rapidly and he was approaching so close," Cochran said.

Cochran said he had "serious concerns" about the killing of an unarmed student when he first heard what had happened, but he better understood the officer's decision after watching the video.

"It's very powerful," said Cochran, whose agency is investigating the shooting along with the local district attorney. The video will be shown to the family and reporters this week, but won't be publicly released.

Beasley, the Collar family's attorney, said another police employee was at the station with the officer. The officer called for backup but went outside before it arrived.

"They called for backup, but he goes out by himself without backup. Backup came almost immediately after the shooting. I understand one officer came," he said. Still, Beasley questioned why the officer called for support when facing an unarmed student.

The sheriff talked with Beasley's chief investigator on Monday, but he did not mention anything about LSD or alcohol.

"I was surprised it came out at the news conference without contacting the family through us," he said.

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