Suspect identified in police station shoot-out
November 12, 2012
The suspect who walked into the Southfield Police Department Sunday afternoon and opened fire in the lobby has been identified as 64-year-old Harold Joseph Collins, a retired military veteran.
Police Chief Eric Hawkins said Monday in a press conference that an investigation by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is under way to help determine the man’s motive. According to Hawkins, the Southfield resident, who was eventually gunned down by officers, appeared to be in poor health and unstable.
“I can only speculate, but yes, it’s obvious that yesterday was Veterans Day and we have information that this person was a veteran, in poor health and had internal issues,” Hawkins said.
At 2:20 p.m. Nov. 11, the suspect reportedly entered the lobby of the Southfield Police Department and the desk officer asked how he could help him. According to a press release, the man “just looked at the officer with a blank look on his face.”
Hawkins said Monday that the man arrived in a 2010 Dodge and was dressed in what would be considered “normal” clothes, though he was obviously in “poor health physically.” Hawkins added that the man only stared in the distance and was not confrontational.
Collins then reportedly looked around the police lobby and then pulled out a .380-caliber handgun and pointed it at the desk officer behind the protective glass. He reportedly pulled the trigger, though it did not fire.
Hawkins said the desk officer drew his handgun and ordered the suspect to drop his weapon. At least five other armed officers responded to the lobby at that time, confronting him, Hawkins said.
Collins reportedly did not respond or comply with the officers’ demand to drop his weapon and the officers then exchanged shots with the suspect, according to the report.
The first responding officer was shot once in the shoulder and the subject was shot several times. The wounded officer is a sergeant with more than 25 years with the department and is recovering in a nearby hospital.
Hawkins said the department is not releasing any information on the officer to respect his wishes, though “he is in stable condition, alert and in good spirits.”
Collins was pronounced dead at the hospital and Hawkins said he could not comment further on how many shots he sustained or his health conditions.
None of the other officers or personnel were injured in the incident and there was one woman who was in the lobby when the suspect entered. According to Hawkins, she ran and found safety when she saw the suspect brandish the handgun.
Hawkins said that protocol was followed during the incident and is the reason the situation did not turn into a “massive tragedy.”
“I want to emphasize that I am very proud of my officers,” he said, adding that they performed “courageously in a stressful situation.”
Hawkins also said he believes it was an isolated incident.
“This community remains safe and secure,” he added.
Hawkins labeled the incident as “unusual and unpredictable” and urged the public to monitor friends and family who display radical changes in behaviors.
“Help them ... to help themselves before an incident spirals out of control like yesterday’s," he said.
Following proper procedures, the matter will continue to be investigated by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. The lobby was under full surveillance, according to Hawkins, and they have reached out to the suspect’s family.
The officers involved in the situation are all on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Counseling, as well as other support resources, will be offered to all members of the department, Hawkins said.
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