Top UNLV men’s basketball recruit Zaon Collins, a star basketball player at Bishop Gorman High School, 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, 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 Clark County coroner’s office identified the crash victim as Eric Echevarria, 52, a 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.”
About 100 people gathered at Fort Apache Road and Furnace Gulch Avenue on Sunday night for the candlelight vigil in Echevarria’s honor. Religious music played while the group held candles around photos of Echevarria surrounded by flowers, candles and balloons.
The 52-year-old Army and National Guard veteran, who worked as a custodian at a local elementary school, died in a collision Wednesday afternoon. The Metropolitan Police Department has said Echevarria was trying to turn left when his 2016 Hyundai Accent was struck by a 2016 Dodge Challenger driven by Collins, who investigators say was speeding in a 35 mph zone. Collins was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
Evelina Sulrzycki, Echevarria’s sister-in-law, said the family just wants justice to be served in her brother-in-law’s death. She said she’s worried that the case will slip through the cracks because of Collins’ athletic status.
“It’s unfortunate that they’re making this kid look like a hero just because he knows how to play basketball, yet he took someone who was a father, a grandpa, a husband, a veteran,” Sulrzycki said. “He was everything, yet they’re not acknowledging that. They’re only acknowledging that this kid was an athlete, but what good is an athlete when you’re taking a hero?”
Eric Echevarria’s wife, Annmarie, said she knows that Collins is young and made a mistake, but she wants to be sure that he’s held accountable.
“I don’t want to share any hate or anything for this boy that did this, but he needs to be held accountable,” Echevarria said. “He needs to be held accountable for killing my husband.”
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.
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. His parents were seated in the courtroom gallery.
After the hearing, Chesnoff and Schonfeld issued a 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 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.”