10 to o one he gets away with it
Former Tequesta police chief says he accidentally shot wife in Ga., investigators say
By Marisa Gottesman and Adam Sacasa
Cops say former Delray police deputy chief shot his wife in Georgia
An Atlanta-area police chief who previously helped lead two agencies in Palm Beach County says he accidentally shot his wife early New Year's Day inside their Georgia home.
William McCollom, the Peachtree City, Ga., police chief, had served as a major at Delray Beach Police Department until 2006, and then served as chief of the Tequesta Police Department until 2010.
y in Georgia, McCollom called 911 to report accidentally shooting his wife, Margaret, while moving a handgun that was in their bed inside the couple's bedroom, Peachtree City Police Lt. Mark Brown said.
McCollom's wife was flown to Atlanta Medical Center, where she was in critical condition.
A 911 dispatcher asked McCollom, "Who shot her?"
"Me," McCollom said. "The gun was in the bed, I went to move it, and I put it to the side and it went off."
McCollom's wife can be heard crying in the background. He told the dispatcher he shot her in the back.
"Oh my God," the police chief said. "How the hell did this happen?"
McCollom has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and an internal review. He has not been charged with any crimes.
Longtime Delray Beach residents say they were surprised to hear McCollom, their former Delray deputy chief, shot his wife.
"People are praying for his wife and also praying for a plausible explanation," said former Delray Mayor Jeff Perlman. "There is a lot of emotion. There is a lot of disbelief and concern."
Perlman was mayor when McCollom worked for Delray's police force until he left the city.
"He was actually a major, but they called him a deputy chief," Perlman said. "He was No. 2."
But Perlman remembers McCollom from years before Perlman became an elected official in 2000. When Perlman was a newspaper reporter, he said, McCollom worked as a Delray canine officer.
"I did stories on the canine unit," Perlman said. "I knew him early in his career and watched him move up the ladder."
Perlman said McCollom wasn't about just law and order. He said he promoted community policing, which meant getting out of the patrol car and interacting with residents to help solve problems.
Perlman said McCollom encouraged his fellow officers to attend homeowners' association meetings and develop relationships with residents.
"He was a deep-thinking kind of guy," Perlman said. "He was really interested in trying to break the cycle of poverty and crime in the Northwest Southwest neighborhood."
He said McCollom was instrumental in creating a program to help at-risk youth learn how to fix cars after he saw a pattern of kids stealing cars. Perlman said the program ran for 10 years.
Perlman said he turned to McCollom for advice during the seven years when he was in office. "He was a huge help to me," Perlman said. "He was on the top of the list of people I relied on and really looked up to."
In Georgia, investigators would not discuss what led McCollom to open fire. The police turned the criminal probe over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the prosecutor's office there.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Sherry Lang said initial reports suggested that McCollom shot his wife twice, but later information revealed she was shot once. Authorities said the police chief fired his department-issued firearm, a 9-mm Glock handgun.
During McCollom's 911 call, he told the dispatcher he and his wife were asleep when the gun went off. He also identifies himself as police chief of Peachtree City during the phone call.
"He is fully cooperating at this point, and he has been interviewed," said Lang, who declined to comment on what McCollom told investigators.