Target: Zeke Aull, University of South Alabama Chief of Police
Goal: A clear explanation and punitive justice for the officer-related shooting of student
Recently, the usual serenity of the University of South Alabama’s Mobile campus was disrupted by the sound of gunfire. The shot, fired by a university police officer, left 18-year-old freshman Gilbert Thomas Collar, called Gil by friends and family, dead. The circumstances surrounding Collar’s death are still mysterious, but what is absolutely certain is that his death could have been avoided.
Collar was shot dead by a police officer after being spotted naked, banging on the windows of a campus police station. His behavior was described as being erratic, and it has been reported that he behaved aggressively towards the responding officer. Whether or not drugs or alcohol played a role in Collar’s behavior has not yet been determined, nor has it been determined just why Collar became unhinged.
The officer (who’s name has not been released) claims Collar attempted to attack him and that he tried to retreat several times prior to opening fire. However, that does nothing to negate the fact that the shooter was an adult and a trained law enforcement officer while Collar was an 18-year-old boy, who stood 5’7” and weighed approximately 135 pounds. Collar’s mother was promptly notified of her son’s death by two separate officials but was strangely not informed of her son’s alleged aggression by either of them.
Law enforcement officers are trained in multiple methods of apprehending suspects and attackers. A competent police officer certainly should have been able to deal with a naked teenager in a non-lethal way. Law enforcement officers have more than just a gun; they are equipped with tools that give them the capabilities of safely and non-lethally taking down violent suspects.
This officer skipped over all less lethal means at his disposal and jumped directly to lethal force. The officer has been put on paid leave, but that is not enough; he must be severely reprimanded for being so quick to shoot. By pulling the trigger before he had exhausted all other options the officer violated the trust that society and the University of South Alabama put in him as a law enforcement officer. Tell the University of South Alabama that a more adequate explanation is needed in Gil Collar’s death and that the offending officer must be fittingly punished.
Dear Chief of Police Aull,
On the night of Saturday, October 6 you experienced what must be a police chief’s nightmare—an officer related shooting, this one mired in ambiguity and involving a naked 18-year-old. What should have been another normal, uneventful night on the University of South Alabama’s Mobile campus was accentuated by the crack of a gunshot that left freshman Gil Collar dead. Collar’s death could have certainly been avoided if only your officer had not been so hasty to open fire.
Mr. Collar’s actions certainly must have come as a shock to your officer; Collar was stark naked, yelling, and banging on the windows of the police station. His behavior was erratic and aggressive, but it should have been clear that the young man was in a state of great distress. An unarmed teenager, standing barely over five-and-a-half feet tall should not have qualified as a major threat to a trained law enforcement officer. No one knows exactly what caused Mr. Collar to have this breakdown, but there is just no way his actions were so threatening that the officer was justified in shooting him.
Police officers are trained in and equipped with a number of methods that allow them to apprehend or disable suspects without killing them. The fact that your officer declined to use any of the non-lethal means at his disposal and made the choice to shoot Collar is simply inexcusable, and is a gross misuse of his power as a law enforcement agent.
As police officers you and your brothers and sisters are held to a higher standard. Trust has been placed upon all of you by society and placed upon you in particular by the students and affiliates of the University of South Alabama. Your officer violated that trust when he used lethal force when there were other methods still available. He killed a student, a young man who was clearly in need of help, and has simply been put on paid leave. It is necessary that he be reprimanded in a more fitting manner. The University of South Alabama deserves it; Gil Collar deserves it.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: allaboutuni2307 via flickr