When I pulled Jack Dale Collins' mugshot out of my bag and showed it to James "Jimbo" Nelson, who was standing with a crowd fixing his bike trailer outside St. Francis Church on SE 11th, the man immediately recognized the casualty of Monday's police shooting. They were friends.
"Old man Jackie Collins," said Nelson. "I didn't know it was him the police shot."
Another old-timer who gave her name as Gypsy Spirit looked over and saw the photo. "Oh my fucking God," she said. Both say they'd known Collins for about 20 years. He lived on the street that whole while, as far as they knew.
- James "Jimbo" Nelson says he knew Collins for 20 years.
"He was like any other drinker down here. Old man Jackie Collins. I never heard of him being violent toward anyone who hadn't done him wrong," said Nelson. Collins would travel around town on his bike, hauling a modified shopping cart stuffed with his possessions from place to place, recalled Nelson. "He hit all the free places around town that he could. He never kept one squat for more than a few days."
Shannon Marie Boat, who goes by the name Momma Stormy, says she and Collins used to play cards and drink coffee at Daywatch resource center. "He liked to go up to Washington Park a lot, just spend time up there. That's where a lot of drunks hang out and he would go up there to drink," said Stormy. "He was a quiet drunk."
I asked Nelson and Gypsy if they thought Collins might have been trying to commit suicide. When Officer James Walters came upon him in the Arboretum, Collins' arms, face and hands were covered in blood from self-inflicted wounds. They both shook their heads.
"I heard he was a cutter, that disease for cutting," said Nelson.
"He was a slicer," agreed Gypsy. "When he got into depression mode, when he was really drunk, he would go into a slashing mode where he'd cut himself. His arms. That's why he always wore long sleeves." She traced on her arms where she had seen his scars.
"Even in the summer, he wore long sleeves," said Nelson.
"Because he was embarrassed about the cuts?" I asked.
"No, he just didn't want anyone to know about his life," said Gypsy. "He was a private man, a personal man."
Everyone agreed that Collins was a heavy drinker. "He drank every day," said Nelson. "He was a drunk, but he was a peaceful drunk."