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Parents Blame College for Son’s Death

MOBILE, Ala. (CN) - A police officer needlessly shot to death a naked college student, who obviously was unarmed, the student's family claims in court.

Reed and Bonnie Collar, parents of former South Alabama University student Gilbert Collar, sued the University, its police chief Zeke Aull, and officer Trevis Austin in Mobile County Court.

"On the evening of October 5, 2012, Gilbert Collar and other students of the University of South Alabama attended an off-campus event known as Bayfest," the complaint states. "Following the events at Bayfest, Gilbert Collar and the other students returned to the campus of the University of South Alabama.

"During the early hours of October 6, 2012, at approximately 1 o'clock in the morning, Gilbert Collar and other students were standing around talking outside a dormitory at the University of South Alabama. At some point while they were talking, Gilbert Collar was given a substance that is believed to have included illegal drugs.

"Gilbert Collar had a sudden and immediate reaction to the substance he ingested. The reaction caused him either to become extremely hot or to believe that he was very hot. Gilbert Collar lost the ability to fully understand his actions and to reason. As a result, Gilbert Collar took off his clothes and began running into and out of traffic on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

"Gilbert Collar, likely in search of help, went to the University of South Alabama police station. Gilbert Collar, completely unclothed, began hitting on the window of the police station. Gilbert Collar began walking away from the building, but returned to the police station and began hitting on the door of the police station. Then Gilbert Collar walked away from the building a second time."

The Collars claim a video camera inside the police station captured all of his actions, and that "Officer Austin exited the police station with his weapon drawn, prepared to use the most extreme form of force available, which would potentially include shooting and killing an unarmed teenager.

"Upon exiting the building, Officer Austin called after Gilbert Collar. The youngster returned toward the police station, and immediately began acting in an erratic manner.

"Officer Austin began backing up and Gilbert Collar continued to move toward him, crouching down, jumping up and bounding around. Officer Austin knew, or reasonably should have known, that Gilbert Collar was irrational for some reason, and was acting in an emotionally unstable manner.

"Officer Austin had to know at the time that Gilbert Collar, who weighed about 140 pounds, was unarmed."

The parents claim their son never touched Austin, and that "Officer Austin had ample opportunity to obtain his baton and pepper spray, to holster his weapon and to use his own physical abilities, if necessary, or to prolong the situation and wait for backup to arrive."

But minutes after Gilbert Collar showed up at the station, the complaint says, "when Gilbert Collar was a few feet away from Officer Austin, and for unexplainable reasons, Officer Austin shot Gilbert Collar. After being shot, Gilbert Collar rose to his feet and walked a short distance before he fell to the ground for the last time and died.

"Literally seconds after Officer Austin fired the fatal shot, other police officers arrived at the station and were prepared to assist to control the situation and arrest Gilbert Collar, if necessary."

The Collars seek damages for negligence and failure to train, and an injunction requiring the University to adequately train its officers to deal with such situations.

They are represented by Jere Beasley, with Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, of Montgomery, Ala.

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