The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 12, 2012

Officer had baton, spray in shooting

— A University of South Alabama campus police officer was carrying not just his gun but also pepper spray and a baton the night he shot and killed an unarmed freshman student, the school said Friday.

University spokesman Keith Ayers said officer Trevis Austin, a four-year veteran of the department in his first police job, was armed with all three weapons when he walked outside the police station with his gun drawn to confront Gil Collar. Collar, 18, was naked when he banged on police department windows in the pre-dawn hours last Saturday.

It's unclear why the officer went for his gun first, but the sheriff has said the decision was proper.

Authorities said Collar, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound high school wrestler in his first semester of college, was on LSD when he moved aggressively toward the officer in an athletic stance to prompt the shooting. But surveillance video showed the student never tried to grab the officer's weapon or got within 4 or 5 feet of Austin.

A copy of the university's weapons policy, released to The Associated Press in response to an open records request, shows an officer's actions in cases where force is necessary should be based on how much a suspect resists. Deadly force is justified only when a suspect has the intent, ability and opportunity to kill or injure someone else, the policy states.

The policy says that an officer's attempt to control a situation "should match (the) level of resistance then move up or down as resistance changes." But Ayers declined comment on how the guidelines are interpreted when an officer is confronted by someone who doesn't have a weapon yet could present a threat.

"The university is withholding further comment at this time as the district attorney and sheriff's office have time to conduct a thorough external review," he said.

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