Gil Collar and his mother, Bonnie Collar (Source: Collar family)
Gil Collar during his wrestling days at WHS. (Courtesy: Collar family)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Nearly a year after his death, the family of slain Wetumpka High School graduate and University of South Alabama freshman Gil Collar spoke with WSFA 12 News Monday.
It's the first time a family member has spoken out about the case regarding renewed concerns about the campus just two weeks after new allegations against the officer involved in Collar's case.
A Mobile TV station reports officer Tevis Austin, who shot and killed Collar, pulled his gun on another student. Local police have not confirmed the allegation. The victim claims he was stopped by officer Austin when he ran out of gas and was accused of stealing the car. He then says the officer pulled a gun on him when he victim's friend showed up to help.
Life without Collar has crept by since October 6, 2012 for family members like Leslie Blackwell. The circumstances of Collar's final hours are no more clear today than the day the shots were fired.
"Maybe he [officer Austin] didn't have the training he should have. Maybe he didn't have the resources he should have had," Blackwell said.
Police reported Collar was acting erratically and was unclothed when he knocked on the campus police station door, a decision that ultimately cost him his life. When Blackwell thought the pain couldn't be any worse.
"My heart stopped. It felt like everything was starting over again," Blackwell explained. "Wounds that had not healed were opened right back up."
Describing the moment she heard the latest allegations concerning the officer that shot Collar, the very thing the family has attempted to prevent since those deadly shots were fired.
"We cannot let this blow over," Blackwell said. "I feel a moral obligation to do everything that I possibly can do, whether it's talk to you and have the message heard, or write letters, or anything we can think of to have a change made."
Perhaps the most personal fight for Blackwell, the negative images cast on Collar's character, after his death. "Knowing that all these people think that he [Gil] was some crazed, menacing," she said before pausing. "He was 135 lbs! He wasn't much bigger than me. And he was clearly unarmed."
Blackwell says the part of the story dealing with Collar's actions was "a little bit embarrassing, but there was no getting around it."
A grand jury no-billed the case, and Austin did not face criminal charges. The Collar family filed civil lawsuits to force the police department to implement more training.
Blackwell said her family had faith in the legal system. A year later, that faith is wavering.
"People who are hurt and who are now angered by this most recent incident, but we don't know what to do with that anger," Blackwell explained. "If we could just find an outlet, or a way or someone, that we felt someone was listening."
When asked what closure for the Collar family looks like, Blackwell wasn't sure there is such a thing. " I don't know that true closure is possible," she said.
It's one step forward, two steps back for a family still reeling from an unthinkable loss.
WSFA 12 News confirmed through sources close to the investigation that
officer Austin received state training, but it does not reach the level
of A-Post Certified police officers, and Alabama State Troopers.
The University of South Alabama would not return phone calls seeking reaction. The Collar's civil suits remain in litigation.