Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2006

Suicide ruled in Fourth Street shooting

September 28, 2006

A 40-year-old man who had just recently moved to Baldwin City committed suicide late Monday night when law enforcement officers were about to apprehend him on outstanding warrants from Oklahoma, said Baldwin Police Chief Mike McKenna.

Leonard Ray Collins -- who had only lived here for several weeks with his wife, two children and a half brother -- locked himself in a bathroom as deputies from the Douglas County Sheriff's office moved into his home at 315 Fourth Street shortly after 11 p.m. Monday, said McKenna. The deputies knocked on the door, Collins said "Hold on a sec," and a gunshot followed, he said. The door was broken open and Collins was found with a single gunshot wound to his head from a semi-automatic pistol.

"I believe elements in this case are sadly showing that Leonard made a choice of taking his life rather than being incarcerated," said McKenna.

The five outstanding warrants from Oklahoma involved check violations, he said, adding that he believed a civil process server who alerted law enforcement to Collins' whereabouts had papers involving bigger consequences, but he declined to elaborate.

"In reality, the civil process server was going to serve him papers and then we would have arrested him on the felony Oklahoma warrants," he said. "He had only lived here a few weeks. What brought this to the forefront was the civil processor had through public information found their address to be on Fourth Street. He had reason to believe they were in Baldwin.

"I believe that it was about 10:55 (p.m.) that our officer had contact with the civil server at Sixth and Ames (streets)," he said. "That's when the sheriff's deputies were called there and a plan was developed to go get Mr. Collins. They went over to the residence shortly after 11. I received a phone call at 11:53 that a shooting had occurred at 315 Fourth Street and I was there at 12:02."

When the three officers and civil process server arrived, Collins was outside the house, he said. His half brother, James Nolan, was inside the house, he said.

"When they went to the house, the brother tried to flee out the back and was caught by the Baldwin officer," said McKenna. "He was detained while the sheriff's deputies went into the house after Collins had retreated into the house and hid in the master bedroom bathroom."

According to a press release from the sheriff's office, Collins was taken by ambulance to a Kansas City area hospital, but died en route. A helicopter ambulance had landed around 1 a.m. on the Liston Stadium football field, but was not used to transport Collins for unknown reasons.

McKenna said such situations are rare with serving papers and also expressed sympathy for the Collins family.

"No, you don't expect these kinds of things, but in our line of work, you have to prepare for the unexpected," he said. "Unfortunately, it was our time for this to occur.

"I would like to express the sympathy from the Baldwin City Police Department to family in the loss of their husband and father," said McKenna. "It's unfortunate that he felt his problems were insurmountable. A suicide is a permanent answer to a short-term problem."

A neighbor, Naomi Mitchell, said that the family had moved into the rental home about a month ago, and that her 10-year-old daughter had played with one of the couple's daughters. She said it appeared that members of the Collins' extended family often stayed with them.

"We were kind of glad to have a family in there living by us," she said. "It seemed to be fine. ... I know like a week ago one of my kids came home and said they were already moving back to Oklahoma."

Mitchell said officers were on the scene until about 9:30 a.m., and that the family was gone and had moved out most of their belongings by about 10:30 a.m.

"They just packed up and left," she said.

Eric Weslander and Janet Reid of the contributed information.

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