MOBILE, Ala. – Gil Collar was a guy everybody wanted to be around in high school, friends said: The girls liked his good looks, even his opponents on the wrestling mat became buddies, and adults knew him as courteous and kind.
The nude 18-year-old who was shot to death early Saturday by a police officer on the University of South Alabama campus wasn’t the young man they knew. School officials said the slightly built freshman took a fighting stance and chased the officer, though Collar’s mother said she was told he never touched the officer.
Acquaintances said he appeared to be intoxicated, because of alcohol or something else, as he took his clothes off, ran through the streets, screamed obscenities and claimed he was on a spiritual quest in the moments before he was killed.
The case has been handed over to Mobile County authorities and could take weeks to resolve. Meanwhile, friends and relatives are trying to figure out what could have happened to the quiet kid who showed so much promise.
It’s completely opposite of the way he was, said South Alabama student Chandler Wescovich of Long Beach, Miss., who became friends with Collar during his short time on campus.
School officials with access to that video have said nothing to indicate Collar was armed. And they have refused to say whether the officer who shot Collar was carrying a baton and pepper spray, both of which campus officers typically have with them.
The university said the officer heard a bang on a window at campus police headquarters and went outside to investigate. The officer tried to retreat numerous times to defuse the situation before opening fire, the university said in a news release.
Collar grew up in the rural outskirts of Wetumpka, about 20 miles north of Montgomery. Brandon Ross, a sophomore at Jacksonville State University, said Collar moved to the neighborhood as an 8-year-old.
I was the first person he met on the bus, and we’ve been friends ever since, he said. He was the kid everybody liked.
He was also so good-looking that his teammates didn’t like standing next to him in team photos.
The girls thought he was the best thing they had ever seen, and they may have been right, Glass said.
Wescovich said everything seemed normal when he saw Collar with friends in a student dining hall less than six hours before the shooting.
Hours later on campus, Sarah Hay, 18, of Dallas, said she saw Collar shirtless outside her on-campus residence. Collar was the loudest of a group of four or five young men, she said, and some of the others were trying to get him to calm down.