Witness: Multiple shots fired from county commissioner's property

At least seven gunshots were fired from Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins' North Las Vegas property the night of July 3, according to a witness.

"The shots were evident," said the man, who refused to give his name, fearing retaliation. "He (Collins) was yelling."

The man said Tuesday after­noon he heard two shots, and then five more were fired quickly in succession. He added that he checked his home for damage after hearing the shots.

"It's a big deal," he said.

Collins, who is under investigation by law enforcement for an "illegal shooting," would not confirm this week whether he fired a weapon that night, saying only that he performed his "usual celebration" for the Fourth of July. He did not give details about his tradition and did not respond to calls Tuesday evening.

The witness account confirms earlier reports that North Las Vegas police were investigating a call about an illegal shooting in the 4200 block of North Decatur Boulevard, near Craig Road, less than an hour before the start of the holiday. Police would not confirm Collins is the subject of the investigation.

According to Clark County property records, Collins owns a home on the 4200 block of North Decatur Boulevard that was purchased in 1997. The home sits on more than an acre of land.

The witness said the lights on Collins' pickup were on that night, music was blaring and that the commissioner appeared to be cutting down a tree or bush. The man said he watched officers, with weapons drawn, confront Collins.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson, responding through an assistant early Tuesday, said he had not seen any police reports of the illegal shooting allegations.

A potential conflict of interest could arise if Wolfson's office investigates. Collins reluctantly voted to appoint Wolfson this year to replace outgoing District Attorney David Roger. Collins also votes in his capacity as a county commissioner to determine the budget for Wolfson's office.

Wolfson did not return calls seeking comment about any potential conflicts Tuesday night.

Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, said Wolfson should remove himself from the decision-making process.

"It's a clear conflict of interest," Dupalo said. "The standard would be for him to recuse himself and send it to somebody who doesn't have any political or financial ties to Tom Collins or himself."

Last week's incident was not Collins' first run-in with North Las Vegas police.

Las Vegas Review-Journal articles said on Oct. 18, 1991, Collins was driving a pickup on Losee Road when he struck a flatbed trailer. Collins was driving with passengers James and Robert Combs, North Las Vegas pig farmers.

The pickup left the road and struck the trailer. All three men were hospitalized with head injuries.

Collins was arrested five months after the crash. North Las Vegas police said they didn't realize Clarence Weldon Collins Jr. was then-Planning Commission Chairman Tom Collins.

Collins was charged with felony drunken driving and reckless driving in connection to the crash.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving and the felony charges were dismissed. He also agreed to attend mandatory classes on drunken driving.

Collins also was convicted of two misdemeanor battery charges stemming from two fights in the 1980s, according to Review-Journal articles.

Collins told the Review-Journal in 1992 that his misdemeanor battery conviction in 1984 involved a co-worker at what was then Nevada Power.

"A man stole from me, and we had a disagreement, Collins said at the time. "I pleaded guilty because I hit him."

The second misdemeanor battery conviction stemmed from a fight on May 27, 1988.

Collins beat accountant David Donohue in an apparent road rage incident.

Donohue said the incident began when Collins tried to pass him on the right emergency lane. Donohue said because he had a new car and didn't want Collins' pickup splashing rocks on it, he deterred Collins from passing.

Collins then boxed Donohue's car in.

Witnesses described how Collins approached Donohue, who remained sitting in his car. Collins then grabbed the accountant by the tie and hit him repeatedly in the face.

Donohue said he was hit 20 times in the face, and that Collins broke his nose and eye socket.

Collins pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor battery count and a judge granted him probation.

In a 1992 article about his prior convictions, Collins told the Review-Journal: "I used to be a rodeo cowboy. I've whopped and I've been whopped."

Review-Journal reporter Kyle Potter contributed to this report. Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.