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October 9th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Only in America: Piers Morgan on a college freshman shot to death by a campus officer: "He may have been a silly boy ... but he didn't deserve to die"

On Monday, Piers Morgan used his "Only in America" segment to continue his crusade towards stricter gun laws and an overall increase in firearm safety:

"Another gun, another senseless loss of life," began the "Piers Morgan Tonight" host, as he introduced his viewers to Gilbert Thomas Collar, an 18-year-old from Wetumpka, Alabama.

Early Saturday morning Collar, a University of South Alabama freshman, found himself "naked at the window of the campus police station," where he "began banging loudly."

At nearly 1:30 a.m., things turned ugly, as an officer stepped outside and engaged the teenager:

"The man repeatedly rushed toward the police officer, and verbally challenged the officer in a fighting stance," explained Keith Ayers, a University of South Alabama spokesman. "The officer with weapon drawn ordered the individual to halt. The officer retreated numerous times in an attempt to calm the situation. The individual continued to press toward the officer in a threatening manner."

Despite standing only 5'7" tall, weighing merely 135 pounds, and being naked – thus clearly unarmed – the law enforcement official felt he was left with only one option:

"The officer apparently concluded that the only course of action available to him was pull out his gun and shoot Gilbert dead with a single bullet to the chest," detailed Morgan.

Those close to the late Collar are struggling to make sense of his death:

"He's not the kind of guy that people knew him and said he would do something like this," said Colgan Meanor, a high school classmate of the deceased.

Admitting that there are various facts still missing from the story, including whether or not Collar was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the host has come to a few of his own conclusions:

"I do know this. A naked 5'7", 135 pound, 18-year-old college freshman does not pose a sufficient risk to a police officer to justify being shot dead."

While the incident won't generate a response equal to that of the Aurora, Colo. movie theater incident, or the killing of Trayvon Martin, Morgan has taken notice:

"It got my attention because my eldest son has just started as a 19-year-old freshman at his British university, and is I'm sure getting up to all the ridiculous things I got up to as a freshman."

"Only in America," concluded the host, could some short-sighted collegiate whimsy cost a teenager his life:

"Gilbert Collar could have been my son, he could have been your son," notes the host. "He may have been a silly boy, a disturbed boy. We don't know. But he didn't deserve to die."
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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Ronald71

    "Only in America" is false and misleading. World wide stupid & evil people do stupid and evil things. I don't believe a "campus police station" is the same as a city police station nor do I believe officers have equivalent training or experience. Further, I'll wager that on a population basis the uniformed police who carry loaded firearms openly accidently or erroneously shoot,kill, injure more innocent/unarmed people than do those civilians who are licensed gun owners. I believe that U.S. citizens who legally own/carry guns are among the safest gun owners in the world. I invite Piers Morgan to study the subject and improve his perspective.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Believe me, outside of the US "Only in America" is a valid and often used term. Usually to describe something crazy that wouldn't happen anywhere else in the world. I.e. being allowed to keep a lion as a pet with no restrictions. Or a cop shooting kids.

      October 10, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alasandra

      The campus police station is indeed the same as a city police station. They have real cops who have received the exact same training as any other police officer and they have the power to make arrest.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ashley Starling

    Morgan, you don't "know" anything. There are plenty of 135lb men who could easily strip a campus cop of his or her fire arm. This kid was reported by his wrestling coach to be a phenom. Do you think you could go head to head with a young strong fast exper gtappler? I didn't think so.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • choonzer

      Excellent point. Besides, it's not up to an officer (or any other citizen) to try and guess the nuances of what level the actual threat might be on paper, all while being physically attacked by a clearly unstable and out-of-control person. You take whatever action necessary to ensure your own safety, and/or that of the general public.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Whome

        He could have shot in the leg, could have shot warning shots. Anything but this – its nonsensical to assume this is a valid action by any stretch of the imagination.

        October 9, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • WilSpeaking

        Who is also clearly clueless about firearms, lethal force and the law!
        1) It is not easy to be a perfect shot even if you practice a lot (add stress and it all goes downhill),
        2) Lethal force, you can only use it if you believe your life (or the life of others) is in immediate danger,
        3) Warning shot! If you fire a "warning shot" then you don't believe your life is in immediate danger (otherwise you would shoot to stop) thereby making it illegal to make said "warning shot" and open to persecution in court. A better description can be found here:

        October 9, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • grahamforeverinmyheart

      The boy did not deserve to die, no matter what. He was not carrying a weapon. He was not hurting another person. He was clearly in need of help and he needed to be restrained (for his own safety). It could have been drugs, mental illness, or both that precipitated the unusual behavior. Whatever the cause of the boy's actions, he was not a true threat or danger to anyone but himself. He needed help, not the death penalty.

      October 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Tesla

        This MAN (he's 18, can't pull any of that child crap) acted erratically, advancing on a police officer who had his weapon drawn. The police officer even backed up for 100 ft before stopping. The suspect made a sudden movement towards the police officer, and was shot in center mass (as police officers are trained to do). The suspect collapsed, then got back to his feet and continued moving for a few seconds before collapsing again.

        I'm unsure, but over 100 ft, I'd think the police officer would be able to give multiple warnings to cease and desist. Maybe the kid was really high on something, but then, he deserved to be shot in this situation. Too bad.

        October 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Do you not have pepper spray in the US? In the UK he would have been peppered, tackled, then arrested. Job done. No one has to die! Surely a better outcome?

      October 10, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
      • Alasandra

        The officer not only had pepper spray he had a baton. He also could have stayed inside the police station until backup arrived. For some reason the African American police officer went outside with his gun drawn and shoot an unarmed white student.

        October 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tebras

    No comment

    October 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ronnie Rober

    A Brit is against guns???? Yawn.....

    October 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. choonzer

    Any adult, naked or clothed, can be a serious threat when psychotic. The guy reportedly took LSD prior to the incident, was clearly threatening, and was physically attacking a cop. Yes it's too bad, but the officer's actions are understandable. Sounds like he went above and beyond in order to avoid shooting the kid, so he wasn't trigger-happy, he felt threatened and was out of options.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Craig

    Comical how you mock a man who wants to make America safer and not have 18 year old kids be shot dead?! The cop could easily have shot him in a non-lethal or less lethal area of the body, the fact he didn't should be considered a crime and that man brought to justice. Not to mention if this kid was at a police station 2 officers could have come out and subdued him. Thirdly if a cop cannot restrain one small man alone he has no right being any form of cop/security can you imagine a club bouncer who couldn't have dealt with that kid? I think not.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • WilSpeaking

      How comical to hear someone preach about something they have no clue about (like how easy it is to be a perfect shot!) Most people who practice frequently on the range are still not perfect shots and accuracy degrades rapidly when in a stressful situation (you know, like being attacked by someone!) and this is why most people (and police) train to shoot "center mass" because it is easier to hit and most likely to stop your attacker. Police on the job frequently only practice on the range enough to qualify for their department and campus police may not have to qualify at all.
      Speaking of campus police, how many do you think were at the campus police station at the time in question? Many places I've seen have only one officer on duty at night if any. On the campus I work at (at night not less) that one officer leaves at 8pm.
      Thirdly, the aggressor was stopped and you have no clue about bouncers either.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dixon Butler

    Right Morgan, this would only happen in America...

    Meanwhile two young unarmed British policewomen were shot to death a few weeks ago while on a " routine " call.

    Ah, the superiority of the Brits....

    October 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Craig

      Difference is cops were killed in the UK by criminals not cops becoming criminals and shooting a stupid kid. You kinda totally missed the point

      October 9, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rationale

    ALL of you are wrong. Forget gun laws, how crazy the kid was, bad cops, training, or the right to bear arms. This is a matter of right to KILL. If the officer MUST fire on the kid, if that was allegedly the definite decision that had to be made, then PUT A SLUG IN HIS UPPER THIGH. Don't drop a round center-chest and snuff him!!!!!!!!!! Jezuz, I swear that some cops are on the edge just waiting for that moment where they get to drop somebody dead. Not dreading it, but hoping for the chance. Same goes for the Trayvon Martin case – put the person DOWN, not DEAD.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • choonzer

      Surely you must know that no police training EVER involves non-lethal shooting techniques. Whether you agree or not, all cops are taught from day one to shoot at center mass. It sounds like this officer tried to avoid shooting at all. The story doesn't bear out your trigger-happy description.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • Alasandra

        Not sure why you insist he tried to avoid shooting he went out with his gun drawn and ready to fire. He could have chosen to use pepper spray or the baton he had on him. He could have chosen to stay inside until backup arrived which was seconds after the shooting. He DID NOT HAVE TO KILL AN UNARMED NAKED 18 YEAR OLD KID.

        In America you are not legally an adult until 21.

        October 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • WilSpeaking

        Nowhere does it state (here or any other news article I have read) that the officer exited the station with gun in hand (all we know is that he was armed.) When he exited the station to see what the problem was he was doing his job nor did he know if the situation required "backup" as so many say he should have called for. We do not know if "backup" was available. What I know is that WE were not there and don't have all the information and are waiting for the investigation to complete. What I believe is that the people complaining the loudest have no clue what it is like to have your life in jeopardy and have to take someone else’s life to save your own.
        BTW: The "age of majority", the threshold of adulthood as recognized in law? In most states in the United States that is 18 or 19, the only state it is 21 is Mississippi. You really should look things up before presenting them as fact. IMO...

        October 23, 2012 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Tesla

      Modern fireams have a unique wounding nature known as cavitation. Because of the spin and deformation of a bullet, it will cause significant damage adjacent to the wound channel as well as the wound itself. This is why a bullet is so much more effective than an arrow at killing something.

      The upper thigh contains a number of large arteries and veins, necessary to supply a lot of blood quickly to the large and frequently used leg muscles. The femoral artery is the largest in the leg, and one of the largest in the body. If this artery is ruptured (by a bullet or the effects of cavitation), a human being will bleed out and die in only a few minutes. Conclusion: The upper thigh is a lethal wound.

      Likewise, even a shot to the extremities was non-lethal, it is considered a form of maiming, likenable to torture. This is frowned upon in police procedure, as well as by the media and public, which try to get police fired for "brutality" when they use tasers, stun guns, bean bags, rubber bullets, pepper spray, mace, or batons on targets such as drugged-up, erratic college students. This speaks against the mindset held by the same people that someone should not defend themselves and should wait for the police to save them.

      There is no pleasing those who rely on emotional rhetoric.

      October 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. WilSpeaking

    Piers Morgan, I know this, you were not there! Your own story says, "The officer retreated numerous times in an attempt to calm the situation" and that the kid "continued to press toward the officer in a threatening manner" and I have seen what people do with their bare hands. It is not pretty.
    While I have compassion for the family the man on the scene confronted with an unbalanced individual made a decision, to survive.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • deb

      Police do not use their weapon without knowing they may have to kill their attacker. It's not Hollywood. A shot to the upper thigh can kill as easily as a shot to the chest, with a bleed-out from the femoral artery. If he had overpowered the police officer and taken away his gun (yes, it's happened) and shot a bystander, it would have been the officer's fault. Unfortunately, deserving to die doesn't have anything to do with it. But it wasn't something silly kids do all the time.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dixon Butler

    Nope, I didn't miss the point.

    The point is that police officers need the proper equipment to do the job. In this case, the officer made a judgement call when it came to a use of force situation Now, it will be up to him or her to articulate why the force was justified.

    Meanwhile, those two British police women were killed without the benefit of all their use of force options. They were unarmed ( according to the BBC website), but yet the British parliament still refuses to arm the officers that are sworn to protect the British public. How sad...

    October 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wake up

      In United States:

      55, 447 people are killed in 2000 alone.
      22, 237 people killed accidental
      17, 352 people committed suicide

      Guns kill get this right.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
      • John

        Cars kill a lot of want to get rid of those also?

        October 20, 2012 at 4:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Whome

      Seriously you bring up a case about British policeman when the topic is clearly about a young man being shot to death.

      Sure change the topic as much as you like just because you don't like being told by a person with a British accent that a policeman from your country screwed up royally. What's next you'll tell him to go back to where he came from?

      October 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Craig

      You missed the point as this kid was killed by someone whos role should have been to protect him, the British Police Officers were killed by criminals. The British do not want police officers armed because then incidents like this happen, where someone who didn't need to die will be killed. The more guns there are, the more they will be fired, and the more deaths and injuries there will be. Shootings are very rare in the UK. Yes police could be more offensive with guns, but they could be more fearsome roaming around with a chain saw but no one wants that. Just because guns are small and neat does not stop them from being there to kill. There are UK police with guns but they are special units who are only called when they are NECESSARY so that these situations do not happen, yet are available for the few situations that need an appropriate response.

      October 10, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Nana

    What happined to this young man was very tragic and horrable. But what happined to 23 old Rachel Corrie is unforgivable.

    Rachel Corrie parents accept LennonOno Grant for Peace on behalf of there daughter who was murdered by Israelis.

    Free media for ALL

    October 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Rick390

    As a police officer for 28 years I well know that age, gender, size and weight do not determine the threat level of a person intent on attacking a police officer. I personally witnessed a 110 lb. woman under the influence fight three male corrections officers for several minutes while they applied their full body weight on top of her. Myself and fellow officers had numerous fights with women and males of small stature and body weight. Women in particular are remarkably strong for their size, extremely flexible and tremendously quick. Citizens who think that a policeman can simply employ some "kung fu" move to control an out of control person are naive and or have never been in an actual physical confrontation. Further, I have had combatants fight through repeated dosings with mace and capstun and simply ignore baton strikes that would seemingly incapacitate a normal person.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Larry

    Whh do college security officers need guns? Oh, yeah, that's right, all those senseless masacres with high powered automatic rifles that the NRA will defend their members' rights to bear even though these weapons have no practical purpose or use in the hands of anyone but the military.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Delorse Lewis

    Racism is live on your show,I watch you every evening you are yet to show that you care for African American. I would like for you to ask the question to White American why they do not like black people.

    October 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. vince

    bottom line, cops watch too much tv where shooting someone dead is sop, where was the pepper spray, how about calling for backup and I mean the real cops. this was legalized murder.

    October 10, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Brian H


    October 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • choonzer

      First: Caps unlock.
      Second: English 101
      Third: If a doctor, president, lawyer, or your own kid repeatedly physically attacks a police officer even after several warnings and weapon drawn, he/she will likely be shot. For every bad police interaction, there are hundreds of professional and appropriate ones. Go sell paranoid conspiracy someplace else.

      October 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sue

    Just because he was unarmed and naked does not mean he was harmless. Remember the guy in Florida ( also high on LSD ) that was naked and unarmed that literally ate a mans face OFF. When you trip on acid and lose your mind, attacking innocent people you LOSE the right to choose which weapon should be used to bring you down. I'm sorry for the family and the kid but he is the one that brought this whole thing on . His parents should be less worried about the cops actions and more worried about their sons inability to say NO to drugs and behave himself. Typical in America do totally turn a blind eye to the fact that the kid used drugs ...instead blame everyone else.

    October 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Rhett Tolmie

    Piers Morgan,
    Did you just equate taking LSD and attacking someone as collegiate whimsey?
    What college did you go to?

    October 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  19. John

    to bad pierce doesn't report on how home inavsions soared in the UK because criminals dont have to worry about armed home owners..after Australia banned guns armed robberies shot up to 49% more than before..

    October 20, 2012 at 4:25 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • WilSpeaking

      Those statistics do not support his position so were ignored.

      October 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply

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