The saga of ex-Nebraska running back Thunder Collins is getting stranger as more details emerge. As has been widely reported, Collins was one of three men charged in Omaha with the murder of 38-year-old Timothy Thomas and the attempted murder of a 26-year-old man who was found in critical condition in a motel on the other side of town.
Police are now saying that the shootings are the result of a drug deal gone bad, or, rather, a drug deal in which the assailants never intended to pay. It’s not yet known how Collins is linked to the other two suspects. The victims were both from suburban Los Angeles. It’s also unknown why they happened to be in Omaha. And making this more bizarre, it was originally rumored that Collins was the victim of the shooting, and he had to confirm to a local television station that he was actually alive. He didn’t mention at the time that he was the one doing the shooting (allegedly).
Thing started getting weird on Tuesday afternoon when KMTV ACTION NEWS 3’s Devon Patton got in touch with Collins just hours following the shooting after a radio station began reporting that Collins had been killed in the shooting. Here’s a partial summary of that phone call, well before Collins was identified as a suspect:
Collins said his cell phone was ringing off the hook with calls and text messages from people in Lincoln, Omaha and even California.
He believes a radio station might be to blame. He described one of the calls to Action 3 News. ”They said, ‘Thunder! Okay, you’re alive! Well, guess what? They think that you are dead down in Lincoln,” Collins says. “I’m like, ‘That’s crazy!’”
Collins hopes the rumors go away, but he appreciates the calls from concerned Husker fans.
Hmmmmm. Why on earth would he want all this to blow over?
Last night, Patton’s attitude changed from “just wanted you to know he was OK” to “I interviewed a suspected murderer! I’m going to be a star!” This time around, he added a few pieces of information that just might have been noteworthy enough to include in Tuesday’s report:
When I was talking to him he seemed amused about people thinking that he was dead and very interested in letting people know that he was alive.
During the interview Thunder said people thought they saw his S-U-V at the crime scene. He didn’t deny he was there and added that he was robbed. “I just know the people that stay on that street and earlier I had come through there,” says Collins.
We engaged in small talk about what he is doing and his plans for the future. He said he has a business called Oh Boy Productions. He tries to get different comedy acts to come to Omaha. He also told me he has been staying in shape and wants to play football in the Canadian Football League. He never seemed nervous or acted like he was involved in a shooting.
Really, Devon, it never occurred to you to include in your first report that he was at the scene of the freaking murder? And after he said the totally-not-suspicious “I just know the people that stay on that street and earlier I had come through there” you didn’t consider following up on that, being a journalist and all?
It does seem odd that Collins would be so willing to reveal to a reporter that he was at the crime scene, and he clearly wasn’t hiding from anyone. His public behavior is consistent with someone who didn’t do anything, but police maintain that he did do something wrong and had a gun at the scene.
According to the LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, Collins was on the sidelines for Nebraska’s season-opening win over Western Michigan rooting on the team. And he ran into Eric Crouch at the UFC event in Omaha last week:
Eric Crouch, the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner who played with Collins at Nebraska, said Collins seemed to be doing well when the two bumped into each other at the Ultimate Fighting Championship matches in Omaha last week. Crouch said they spoke for about 20 minutes.
“Thunder always has been a personable guy, a likable guy, so this comes as a shock,” Crouch said. “You can be very likable and have your own personal issues.”
A woman in Lincoln who housed Collins from the time he came to the university in 2000 until last December says that she can’t believe he’d be involved in something like this, according to KETV:
“I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now,” she said.
The OMAHA WORLD-HERALD reports that Collins’ father was a drug dealer who died in a shooting while Collins was growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and that when Collins was seven he discovered the body of his 14-year-old cousin with a bullet in the head.
While Collins and one other suspect have been brought in, the third suspect remains a fugitive. He seems, however, not to be telling local news crews that he was in the area of a murder he may have committed.