by Corey Williams
Associated Press Writer
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (AP) — Police are investigating what prompted a 64-year-old military veteran to stride into a suburban Detroit police station then open fire on officers, leading to an exchange of gunfire and his own death, authorities said Monday.
Officers fatally shot Harold Joseph Collins in the Sunday afternoon incident in the lobby of the police headquarters in Southfield, and a 50-year-old sergeant was hurt in the exchange of fire.
A preliminary investigation indicates Collins had medical problems, but it is not clear if that had any bearing on his actions, Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins told reporters. He did not specify the nature of Collins’ health issues.
“Based on the behavior of this individual, my opinion and the opinion of the investigating officers, is that this person was struggling with some very serious internal issues,” Hawkins said.
Collins walked into the building about 2:20 p.m. Sunday and used a .380-caliber handgun to confront an officer seated behind bulletproof glass.
“What’s so unusual about this situation is that … there were no words, whatsoever,” Hawkins said. “The suspect approached the front desk officer and simply stared at the officer. I was told that the suspect appeared to be staring into the distance and not a word was said.”
That officer sought cover and called for assistance. Other officers arrived from other parts of the building and ordered Collins to drop the weapon. Collins refused and gunfire was exchanged.
Collins later died at an area hospital.
Drema Sanders, 59, lives in same Southfield apartment building as Collins, who lived alone, and said she had just seen him at the mailboxes last Friday. Sanders said Collins had some kind of growth on the left side of his face that covered part of his mouth.
“He was always respectful,” she said. “He would nod, because he couldn’t really talk.”
Angelica Mercado, the leasing manager for the apartment building, said Collins had lived there for about 1½ years. He did not talk about his military service, she said, and described him as very active.
“I would never hear a complaint from him or from his neighbors about him,” she said.
Hawkins did not reveal the name of the sergeant who was wounded in the shoulder but said he was in stable condition Monday at a hospital. He said at least five officers were involved in the shooting, but he would not say how many fired their weapons.
“We train these officers to deal with situations like this; to deal with the unusual, to deal with the unpredictable,” Hawkins said. “And this certainly qualified. They performed exactly like they were trained.”
Surveillance video that captured Sunday’s shooting is part of the investigation and was not released Monday.
The shooting was the second at a Detroit-area police station in less than two years.
Four Detroit police officers were shot and wounded Jan. 23, 2011, by 38-year-old Lamar Moore at a west side station. Surveillance video showed Moore walking into the precinct and opening fire on the officers. He was shot to death in the exchange of gunfire.
(Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.)