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USA Police Chief claims immunity in student's shooting death

By Gabriel Tynes

Issue#
JANUARY 11, 2013

 

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University of South Alabama Police Chief Zeke Aull is asking the Mobile County Circuit Court to dismiss a lawsuit against him for negligence in the death of 18-year-old Gil Collar last year. Collar, a USA freshman, was naked and erratic when he was shot and killed by campus police officer Trevis Austin Oct. 5. Aull, Austin and the University were all named in a five-count complaint subsequently brought by Collar’s parents.


Aull, the subject of two of the five complaints, seeks to dismiss the suit based on sovereign immunity and state-agent immunity, both of which are provided for under state law. In a motion filed late last month, Aull argued that since the Collars sued him in his official capacity of Chief of Police, "the court’s inquiry ends there.”

The original complaint, filed Dec. 9, said in his capacity of Chief of Police, Aull "failed to provide adequate training to Officer Austin and also failed to provide him with a taser.” It has widely been speculated that if the University had equipped its officers with tasers, Collar would still be alive.

The lawsuit calls for injunctive relief by requiring USA and Aull "to provide all necessary equipment, including tasers, to the police officers at the University and to provide concomitant training on the safe and appropriate use of tasers.”

Aull’s motion responds by claiming such requests "are beyond the province of the Court” and further, "would significantly affect the State Treasury.”

Regarding Aull’s actions specifically, the Collar’s lawsuit claims he negligently breached his duties to the general public by: failing to provide adequate training to Austin and other officers "not to use force greater than necessary to effectuate an arrest and/or to use the least damaging or deadly means of force as the situation presents; by failing to provide adequate training to Officer Austin and its other police officers to use physical and verbal means to control a subject who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who is mentally unstable, or, only when appropriate, to use his baton or pepper spray to control a situation, such as the one at issue in this case; by failing to provide adequate training to Officer Austin and its other police officers to call for and wait for assistance from other officers, employees of the University or citizens in order to effectuate an arrest without the use of deadly force; and by failing to provide Officer Austin and its other officers with tasers and with adequate training in the use and implementation of tasers to assist with arresting subjects who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who are mentally unstable.

An initial investigation into Collar’s behavior suggested he was under the influence of LSD at the time of the shooting. A toxicology report has yet to be released.

Aull’s motion cites Article I, section 14 of the Alabama Constitution, which states the State of Alabama cannot be sued directly and has absolute immunity from civil lawsuits. Legal precedence takes the law further, extending the immunity to "arms and agencies” of the state, as well as "officers in his or her state capacity.”

However, limited exceptions do not protect the state or its officials when they act unconstitutionally, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond their authority based on "a mistaken interpretation of the law.”

Collar attorney Ben Locklar was not available Jan. 11 to respond to the motion. The Collars are seeking unspecified damages in the suit. A hearing is set for Feb. 8.





 
David says:

JANUARY 14, 2013
8:58 PM
  Correction: Somebody needs to write a story about the USA Police Dept. The guy who ran it in the late 60s when I was there was not qualified to be a school crosing guard. Nothing has changed much since. Try and find some former students who were bceat up or otherwise abused. Check for news clipplings in vertical files at MPL Local History Dept.
 
 
David says:

JANUARY 14, 2013
6:00 PM
  Somebody needs to write a story about tehye USA Police Dept. The guy who ran it in the late 60s when I was there was qualified to be a school crosing guard. Nothing has changed much since. Try and find some former students who were bceat up or otherwise abused. Check for news clipplings in vertical files at MPL Local History Dept.
 
 
jeremiah says:

JANUARY 11, 2013
9:55 PM
  I don't know about the lawsuit but I think the Chief needs to be issued his walking papers. The USA community deserves better leadership of the Campus Police Dept. than is currently being delivered.
 

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What should be Mayor-elect Stimpson's top priority?

Examining the budget.
Evaluating city employees.
Addressing public safety issues.
Improving infrastructure.
Free fish plates.

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