The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 8, 2013

Alabama judge dismisses shooting suit against college

— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A judge on Friday dismissed a family's lawsuit against the University of South Alabama over a campus police officer's fatal shooting of a naked student.

State law exempts the school from the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of freshman Gil Collar, 18, of Wetumpka, Mobile County Circuit Judge Robert H. Smith said in his one-sentence order.

The judge said the lawsuit can go forward against the university's police chief, Zeke Aull, however. The suit also names officer Trevis Austin, who fired the fatal shot.

Austin hasn't asked a judge to dismiss his part of the lawsuit, and his lawyer did not immediately return a message seeking comment. The officer was suspended from duty.

An attorney for Collar's parents, Jere Beasley, said Alabama provides sovereign immunity that makes it difficult to sue the state government and its public universities. He said the ruling did not address the merits of the lawsuit, and he's pleased it is proceeding against the chief and officer.

"We felt like if we could keep them in, it would be the same result eventually," he said.

The parents' goal is getting "changes made so that what happened to their son won't happen to any other students," he said.

A spokesman for the university declined comment on Smith's decision.

An officer shot and killed Collar outside the campus police station in October. The former high school wrestler had been on campus only a few weeks at the time.

Authorities said Collar was nude and appeared to be on drugs, and he threatened the officer. The lawsuit maintains the shooting was unjustified and violated police policy.

Beasley said someone else likely slipped drugs to Collar.

The district attorney's office has said it would investigate the shooting and ask a grand jury whether to file charges.

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