'It ain't nothing but a BB gun': Keith Collins' last words after being fatally shot by Raleigh officer inspire call for new NC law

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The family of Keith Collins, who was shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer last January while carrying a BB gun, is calling for legislation to keep any family from having to live through what they're calling a "perfect storm."

Collins' family says that the 52-year-old man was physically and mentally disabled -- only able to read at a third-grade level -- and spent much of his life being bullied.

"The death of Keith Collins was a perfect storm. A particularly violent storm arising from a rare combination of adverse factors: bullying, stereotyping, regulating, policing, protecting, serving, and the law. Keith's tragic death is an indictment on the way we continue to choose to live with one another," said Gerald Givens, the president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP, speaking for the family Friday.

The family came forward a day after District Attorney Lorrin Freeman decided not to file any charges against the officer who killed Collins. Freeman said the officer reasonably believed his life was in danger, and therefore was justified in using deadly force against Collins.

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Collins had a BB gun in his possession and police said he pointed it at the officer while running away, despite the officer's orders to show his hands.

Collins' family said they are still not sure why he had the BB gun. They believe it had something to do with bullying and protecting himself from bullies, as they say he spent much of his life being bullied.

According to the family, before the shooting, Collins was trying to return the BB gun to the Walmart where he purchased it. However, the store had a no returns policy. When he left the store, the BB gun fell out of his pocket.

A woman in the parking lot saw that and saw Collins put it back in his waistband before going into a nearby Big Lots. She called 911.

Collins shopped and left the Big Lots without any incident, but Raleigh officer WB Tapscott, who was responding to the woman's 911 call, caught up with Collins as he was walking home.

Tapscott stopped his patrol car in the middle of the road, about 2-3 minutes from Collins' home. Collins started running.

Tapscott chased him for about 10 yards, pulled out his gun and shouted commands at Collins to show his hands. Collins ran another 10 yards before turning around with the BB gun in his hand.

At that time, the officer fired his weapon four times. Collins fell to the ground.

Police say Collins then pointed his weapon at the officer again, causing Tapscott to fire another three shots.

Tapscott then moved back to a nearby utility pole, but when Collins attempted to get up and point his weapon at Tapscott again, the officer ordered him to the ground before firing another four rounds.

A total of 11 shots were fired.

Other officers at the scene approached Collins, kicking the BB gun away from him. That's when he said what his family believes are his last words: "It ain't nothing but a BB gun."

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Collins' family and the Raleigh-Apex NAACP are now calling for new legislation in North Carolina that would require more than half of all BB guns or other air rifles to be finished in a bright color.

The idea is so that the guns can easily be identified as unrealistic imitations by the police and the general public.

The NAACP also called for national standards in policing for how police officers respond to and handle certain calls. Givens said, right now, there are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies each doing their jobs their own way.

"The results continue to be different standards for protecting and serving: One for white Americans and one for everyone else," Givens said.

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Ultimately, Givens said it was possible that Tapscott feared for his life and thought Collins had a real firearm that he intended to use. However, he said that's why legislation needs to change.

"You have to understand that the standards are higher for law enforcement. He had a lot of options in his hands. The standard has to be higher (for officers). He made choices too," Givens said.

Givens called on young people to step up and strategically demand change that will improve our country.

"Think about your strategy and what you're doing and what it is you're trying to achieve, and understand legislation is what we need to create the change in our community. Be peaceful. Be civil."

Freeman's full report about the incident and why the officer will not be charged, can be read here.
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