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Zaon Collins released on ‘highest level’ of monitoring after fatal crash

Updated December 31, 2020 - 7:44 pm

Zaon Collins, a star basketball player at Bishop Gorman High School and the top recruit of this year’s UNLV class, was ordered released from jail Thursday, a day after his arrest on suspicion of DUI after a crash that killed one man in southwest Las Vegas.

During a court hearing Thursday afternoon, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure released Collins, 19 on “the highest level” of electronic monitoring and ordered him not to drive and to abstain from alcohol and drugs.

Defense attorney David Chesnoff told the judge that he has known Collins for years, and “he has been an exemplary young man” and was recruited by colleges that “evaluated not only his playing skills but his character.”

Prosecutor Peter Thunell had asked the judge to set bail at $150,000, noting that at least one witness reported seeing Collins driving upward of 100 mph along Fort Apache Road.

“The facts of this are very concerning, and he does pose a danger to the community,” Thunell said.

The victim has been identified by the Clark County coroner’s office as Eric Echevarria, a 52-year-old Las Vegas resident. He died of multiple blunt force injuries. The coroner’s office has ruled his death accidental.

“It’s tragic,” said Rich Thornton, the assistant director of Vegas Elite Basketball Club, where Collins played. “First and foremost, for the victim and their family. And then it’s tragic for Zaon Collins and his family. It’s a horrible accident.”

Officers were called at 3:23 p.m. Wednesday to South Fort Apache Road and Furnace Gulch Avenue, past Blue Diamond Road, after a crash involving a 2016 Dodge Challenger, driven by Collins, and Echevarria’s 2016 Hyundai Accent, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. Investigators believe Echevarria was attempting to make a left turn when his vehicle was struck.

“A jar containing a green leafy substance was visible lying on the floor of the Dodge’s front passenger section,” according to an arrest report from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Investigators believe Collins was speeding in a 35 mph zone just before striking the Accent, according to the arrest report. The crash happened exactly one mile from Collins’ home.

Echevarria was taken to Spring Valley Hospital but died while being transferred to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, police said. Collins was taken to University Medical Center with survivable injuries.

Collins, dressed in a black shirt and black pants, appeared to have a bandage around his left hand during his initial court appearance, as he stood shackled behind a glass enclosure for the proceeding. His parents were seated in the courtroom gallery.

After the hearing, Chesnoff and Schonfeld issued a prepared statement.

“Zaon Collins is a good young man who has always worked hard in school and on the basketball court,” the statement read. “He has brought much joy to our community and we ask that folks not rush to judgment. It is Zaon’s intention to plead not guilty.”

Collins, a highly rated point guard, committed to UNLV on Aug. 23 over Arizona State, Arizona and Southern California. He signed with the Rebels in November. He is rated by 247Sports’ composite rankings of different recruiting sites as a four-star prospect and also was ranked the nation’s No. 42 player and the country’s sixth-best point guard.

His decision to stay in Las Vegas helped elevate UNLV to the No. 1 class among Mountain West schools and 19th nationally in the recruiting rankings, according to 247Sports.

“We are aware of the tragic event that occurred yesterday and are in the process of gathering more information,” UNLV athletics said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those impacted.”

Many players who have shared the court with Collins in the past or were expected to in the future took to Twitter to react to the news. Forward Arthur Kaluma, a UNLV commit who played with Collins with Vegas Elite, wrote “Praying for you and the fam bro.” Keshon Gilbert, the third member of the Rebels’ 2021 recruiting class with Collins and Kaluma, said he was “sick to my stomach (for real) man.”

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Mark Anderson, Ben Gotz and Rio Lacanlale contributed to this report.

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