Joseph Collins, 57, is lucky to be alive.
While on his way to work Dec. 5, the Ohio State custodial worker was waiting at the bus stop a few blocks from his home when a man stepped from the shadows and shot him four times. The bullets hit Collins in the face and arms.
“He said, ‘Good morning’ to me, and I replied ‘good morning sir,'” Collins said. “It all happened so fast and next thing I know, he has a gun pointing at me.”
After he shot Collins, the man ran off. Collins ran the few blocks back to his home before collapsing on his porch, banging on the door for his wife, Sheila, to call 911.
“I thought he was going to finish me off,” said Collins, who has worked as a custodian at OSU for nearly 22 years. “I just ran … just ran, and didn’t stop.”
While he recuperates, Collins has been living with his father-in-law, Michael Ervin.
“Why go out and try to take life, to prove you’re a big guy?” said Ervin, former chief union steward for the OSU Communication Union.
Ervin said he is giving Collins a home so he can feel safe resting far from the scene of the shooting. The shooter has not yet been caught.
Since the shooting, Collins has undergone cosmetic surgery to close the gaping hole in his face. He also lost several teeth and suffered damage to his tongue palate. He was also shot twice in his right arm and once in the left.
“If he was not a God-fearing man, he would not have survived,” Ervin said.
There are no suspects in the case, but Collins said he has faith Columbus Police will find the man.
“The detective working on my case promised me that they will find this man,” Collins said. “They said even if it takes six or seven years, they will find him.”
Representatives from Columbus Police were unavailable for comment.
Since the shooting, Collins has looked at dozens of photos of criminals to jog his memory, but none of them seems to fit the profile. Collins said the man who shot him was a young African American, probably in his 30s, and he was wearing a black sweatshirt with a white hood.
The motive for the shooting has not yet been determined, but Collins suggested that it might have been a gang initiation or a botched robbery. The duffel bag Collins was carrying at the time was left at the scene and remained untouched by the shooter.
The faculty and staff of the OSU chemistry department were so moved by what happened to Collins that they donated money to him and his wife to pay for his medical bills. He said it’s because he’s worked in the chemistry buildings for a long time and he’s built strong friendships with his co-workers.
Collins “has a regular job, nothing special, and for somebody to reach out like that … people just don’t do that anymore,” Ervin said.
He also received a visit from OSU President E. Gordon Gee.
“To come visit such a lowly family like ours, he showed great compassion for my family when he visited us,” Ervin said. “He really cares for the little people. A man like that deserves the job he has.”
Ervin said he received word from Gee’s assistant that the president was planning on stopping by for a visit.
“He consoled me and spoke well,” Collins said. “It really warmed my heart that he came. I felt like he really cared for me and I’m just a nobody.”
Collins plans to return to work after he recovers.