By Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - An 18-year-old college freshman killed by a campus police officer who felt threatened by his erratic behavior was unarmed when he was shot, raising questions as to whether deadly force should have been used, lawyers hired by his family said on Monday.
Gilbert Thomas Collar died from a single bullet wound to the chest after an encounter early Saturday with the officer outside a campus police station at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, a school spokesman said.
The law firm hired by Collar's family criticized the early handling of the incident and said the student, who was naked when he was shot, was not armed.
"We are concerned that deadly force was used against an unarmed student," Jere Beasley, of the firm Beasley Allen, told Reuters.
The university has not said whether Collar had a weapon, and autopsy results have not been released.
School spokesman Keith Ayers said on Saturday the officer went outside when he heard loud banging on a window at the station and found Collar acting erratically and in a "fighting stance."
The officer, who had his weapon drawn, tried to calm the situation by retreating but fired after Collar repeatedly ignored commands to stop and rushed at him, the statement said.
Ayers declined further comment on Monday, and the Mobile County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office did not respond to requests for more information. Collar's mother also did not return calls from Reuters.
Beasley said the university should wait for the outcome of a full investigation before making statements.
"Gil was a freshman at the school, and his family had been assured by campus police back in August that a safe haven would be provided for all new students coming to the university," Beasley said.
"The university should not attempt to defend this incident by releasing information to the media until such time as a complete investigation is done," he said.
He said the family would decide its next steps once his firm had completed its investigation into the incident.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)