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Pine Bluff detective killed in shootout

Lieutenant injured; fallen officer remembered as standout by Tony Holt | October 6, 2020 at 7:24 a.m.
State and federal law enforcement officers investigate an officer-involved shooting on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, outside the Econo Lodge motel in Pine Bluff. One Pine Bluff Police officer officer died another was injured in the incident. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

PINE BLUFF -- A Pine Bluff detective was killed and a police lieutenant injured in a shootout Monday afternoon near one of the city's busiest intersections, authorities said.

A solemn and tight-lipped Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant confirmed during a news conference a few hours after the shooting that detective Kevin Collins, a member of the department's violent crime division, had been pronounced dead at Jefferson Regional Medical Center.

Sergeant said a second officer, Lt. Ralph Isaac, a 20-year department veteran, was shot but was in stable condition.

Two people "believed to be involved in the shooting" were wounded and hospitalized, said Bill Sadler, an Arkansas State Police spokesman. After they were treated and released, they were questioned by investigators, he said. They have not been identified.

Asked whether anyone had been arrested in the incident, Sadler on Monday evening said, "State police is questioning witnesses."

In his written release, Sadler stated that Collins, 35, and Isaac, 42, were "met with gunfire" around 12:05 p.m. as they arrived at the Econo Lodge, located near the corner of North Blake Street and the Martha Mitchell Expressway.

State police are leading the investigation into the shooting, and the FBI is assisting, Sadler said. Investigators will submit their findings to the Jefferson County prosecuting attorney for the "consideration of criminal charges," according to police.

A third police officer -- Kelsey Collins, who is not related to the deceased officer -- also was involved in the shooting, but he was not injured, authorities said.

The three officers were working on an ongoing "local criminal investigation," Sadler said, but he wasn't more specific.

Sergeant, the Pine Bluff chief, called Kevin Collins, who was hired in 2015, an "excellent" police officer. A career in law enforcement, the chief said, was what Collins had always wanted.

"We have lost a family member today," Sergeant said. "We are hurting."

Sergeant addressed reporters at police headquarters along with Lt. David DeFoor, a Pine Bluff police spokesman. After a few minutes of statements, they left the lectern without answering questions.

Outside the police station after the news conference, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that she knew Kevin Collins well because he often was the police officer assigned to drive her to out-of-town conferences and events.

She said Collins wanted to be a police officer since he was a child and had an unwavering dedication to the job.

"He was one of the finest officers you could ever hope to have," she said. "He was committed to law enforcement. He was committed to excellence. [Law enforcement] wasn't just a job to him. It was his mission."

Collins is the second Arkansas police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year. Hot Springs police officer Brent William Scrimshire was killed during a traffic stop in March.

A third officer, Scott Hutton of the Alexander Police Department, was killed by a fellow officer during an off-duty incident in June, authorities said.

Collins is the first Pine Bluff officer killed in the line duty since 1985, when Patrolman John Fallis was killed while investigating a disturbance.

Collins was named Officer of the Year during the department's 2017 Awards Banquet. In July of that year, he responded to a fire at the St. John Alexander Tower Apartments and rescued a 95-year-old woman from the burning building. Collins found the woman lying on the kitchen floor after he had kicked in the door.

Collins was a Pine Bluff native and a graduate of Pine Bluff High School. He had been around law enforcement for much of his life. His stepfather, Robert Collins, had been a captain with the Jefferson County sheriff's office, the Pine Bluff Commercial reported after Collins was named Officer of the Year.

Matt Mosler, pastor of New Life Church's Pine Bluff campus, where Collins attended and served as a security officer, said that Collins did far more than provide security at the church. Mosler, a former Little Rock television anchor, said the officer would also rock babies and talk to teens.

"He was the kind of man you want your daughter to marry," Mosler said. "The kind of man you want your son to be like. Heck, I wanted to be like Kevin! Tall, handsome, generous, kind but tough as nails."

Robert Blair, a friend and former neighbor of Collins who now lives in Boston, said he was crushed by the news Monday when he learned about it on Facebook.

"It just hurt me so bad," Blair said during a phone interview. "He was such a great guy. ... This breaks my heart."

Before he became a police officer, Collins worked for the Arkansas Department of Corrections and the Metropolitan Emergency Communication Association. While he worked those jobs, he made it known to people that his goal was to become a police officer, Sergeant and Blair said.

State leaders flooded social media on Monday with messages of support and condolence for the department and Collins' family.

"I am saddened to learn of the Pine Bluff Police Officer shot and killed in the line of duty today," Gov. Asa Hutchinson wrote on Twitter. "Our prayers are with the officer's family, the Pine Bluff Department and the law enforcement community."

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton also lamented Collins' death.

"As we mourn the loss of Officer Collins and pray for Officer Isaac's recovery, may God bring comfort to their families and to the brave men and women of the Pine Bluff Police Department," Cotton said in a statement.

Ricky Dale Harrington Jr., a Pine Bluff native and a Libertarian challenging Cotton, offered his "deepest condolences" to Collins' family.

"I pray we stop the senseless violence," he wrote on Twitter.

Washington, the Pine Bluff mayor, called Collins "a gem" and said he cared so much about his job and the public's perception of the Police Department that he would refuse to let the grass grow too high on department property. He wouldn't wait to be asked nor wait for anyone else to take care of it.

"That's who he was," Washington said. "If the grass needed mowing, he was going to go mow it. He just did the work."

Appearances mattered to him. Everything on his uniform had to look perfect, she said.

When he was honored in 2017 for his heroism in the fire, Collins read a statement at the awards dinner, which he made available to the media.

"As I was pushed into my purpose as a police officer, it was either sink or swim," Collins said at the time. "Thank God I chose to swim, so it seems second nature to me and my fellow officers to extend the life line to save others."

Information for this article was contributed by Byron Tate and Dale Ellis of the Pine Bluff Commercial.

Kevin Collins
Kevin Collins
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