News

Manager slain at Palo Alto senior complex described as 'strict,' 'kind'

Vincent DePaul Collins was shot four times by resident Marc Miller, who then shot himself

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Residents of a Palo Alto senior-housing complex where two men died last Thursday in a suspected murder-suicide are recalling one of the men, building manager Vincent DePaul Collins, as "strict" in enforcing the complex's policies but also "kind."

In the days since the shooting, residents of the Alta Torre senior-housing complex have been coming to terms with what happened.

"Everybody is very upset," Judy Jagerman, an Alta Torre resident, told the Weekly. "I can see it in their faces that people are sad."

She described Collins as a "wonderful person" who had at least one daughter and four grandchildren.

"It's such a tragedy," Jagerman said. "He had so much to live for."

Collins, 70, was shot by tenant Marc Alvin Miller, 69, at the 56-unit apartment complex on Thursday before turning the semi-automatic handgun on himself, according to police. The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office identified both men on Saturday.

Collins had four gunshot wounds to the head and torso, according to the coroner's office. His cause of death was determined to be homicide.

A five-year resident of the complex described Miller as "disgruntled." Miller was found deceased with a single gunshot wound and the cause was determined to be suicide.

One resident said the shooting at the Alta Torre Apartments on Fabian Way may have been over a parking dispute.

Collins had been a resident manager at Alta Torre since it opened 2010, according to BRIDGE Housing. Some residents described him as "strict," and Jagerman acknowledged that he was "very strict and very precise." But he was a "happy and wonderful person who always smiled," she added.

"He was the best manager ever," she said. "He kept it so clean."

He had been her friend for five years. When Jagerman faced a crisis and lost her job, Collins told her to "trust in the process," she said. She posted those words in her apartment for encouragement, and she did find a job, she said.

Genrikh Geberger, another resident, said of Collins: "He was very careful -- very strong. I liked him. He kept the place clean. He was very thorough."

But resident Adassa Walker said she had a few run-ins with Collins. When her daughter gave her a plant for her birthday, Walker put it on the patio outside her apartment. It leaked a small amount of water and left a small stain, which made Collins very angry, she said.

Collins also made Walker move her car out of the garage and onto the street after it started leaking oil. Her daughter had the car fixed, but recently Collins said it was leaking again. Walker's daughter asked to leave the car in the garage with a pan underneath it until she could afford to get it fixed, but Collins had refused, she said.

Walker said she didn't think it was right to deny tenants access.

"When we signed on here, the parking garage and the patio were part of the deal," she said.

Sadly, she thinks that Collins's strictness might have led to the shooting, she said.

Miller also had a dispute with Collins regarding his car, which Collins had banished from the apartment parking garage due to leaking oil, Walker said.

Parking on the street is a hardship for older persons, Walker said. Often, it's difficult to find a parking space and then walk back to the complex. On-street cars also have to be moved every 72 hours.

Miller had spoken with Walker's daughter on a number of occasions. "He was really upset about his car, and it was going on for a while," Walker said of the disagreement with Collins.

There might have been a few people who felt animosity toward Collins because of his strictness, another woman who did not want her name used said. The daughter of tenant Vladmir Divnich, she often encountered Collins while visiting her parents, she said. But she did not personally know of anyone who disliked him.

Collins might have seemed intimidating to some.

"He was a passionate guy with a big presence and a loud voice," she said. But his size and demeanor were tempered by his age. "At the same time, he was 70 or so years old," she said.

But Collins always had the tenants and the housing complex at heart.

"He was a great manager. He was here before they opened the apartments in 2010, and he interviewed everyone who lived there. He really cared about the place and the people. Five years later, it looks like a brand new place. He was strict, but he didn't come up with the rules," she said.

Collins "was trying to enforce the rules that everyone was supposed to follow, He wanted everyone to live in the best environment. You don't scratch the walls, or you are responsible to fix it. Otherwise, it isn't fair to other people," she said.

Collins knew everyone by name, she added. "He looked like somebody who really cared about them," she said.

Susan Johnson, executive vice president at BRIDGE Housing, echoed that sentiment. Collins was "well-loved by residents, and highly respected by colleagues -- a kind, lovely person who approached each day with a positive outlook," she said.

"Vincent took pride in maintaining the building so it always looked brand new," Johnson said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed."

Last Thursday, Palo Alto firefighters responded to a 911 call from the complex shortly after 3 p.m. A resident reported that a man in the building's elevator needed medical assistance. They found found Miller with a handgun in his lap and an apparent gunshot wound to the head.

About 10 minutes later, police officers who were summoned to the scene found a second body in the manager's office on the first floor. The man, now identified as Collins, had been shot multiple times.

The woman who dialed 911 on Thursday told the Weekly that she had been waiting for the elevator with her husband. The woman lives in the building and did not want to be identified by name.

"The elevator opened and I saw someone had collapsed inside," the woman told the Weekly. "He was lying on his left side. I saw there was blood near his head."

On Friday, several residents of the 56-unit complex said they knew Miller. One resident, who has been living at Alta Torre for five years, called Miller "disgruntled."

Divnich's daughter said she met Miller several times in the elevator or the hallway. "He was on the quiet side," she recalled.

Geberger said that his and Miller's apartments are on the same floor, but that he did not know him well. "We were not friends," he said, although they would exchange pleasantries.

Another resident, who lives a floor below Miller and who frequently saw him around the complex, described him as "lonely." But though she said Miller lived alone, she didn't think there was anything out of the ordinary about him.

She said she had seen Miller at about 2 p.m. Thursday, roughly an hour before police received the 911 call, and nothing seemed amiss. She said she had just walked into the building when she saw Miller walking out of the elevator, which she was preparing to enter.

"We just said, 'Hi. How are you?' like neighbors typically do," the woman told the Weekly.

The Thursday shootings brought a heavy police presence to a bustling south Palo Alto block that also includes Loral Space Systems and the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center. About a dozen police cruisers and the department's mobile command center swarmed the scene. For hours after the shootings, the main entrances to Alta Torre and the Jewish Community Center were cordoned off while officers collected evidence.

Yet despite the flurry of activity, police almost immediately determined that there was no danger to the public. At about 4:45, police said they had recovered the weapon and that they didn't believe any suspects remained at large.

Since the shooting, Palo Alto officers have been interviewing residents and people who know Miller and Collins in hopes of determining the motive, police said Saturday.

On Friday, BRIDGE officials sent a letter to residents expressing their condolences and concern. They planned to hold a meeting about the tragedy, Jagerman said.

Divnich's daughter said BRIDGE officials have brought in a temporary person to the office while looking for a manager. The first shock has passed among residents, and they are now concerned with the broader issues of their safety.

"Right now there is only the gossip. People really don't know what is going on. They do have concerns that here in Palo Alto something like this could happen. There could have been other people walking around at the time, and who knows what would have happened?" she said.

Alta Torre is a quiet place, she said. The doors are always locked, and tenants have an electronic pass key or must call to get in. "It's not possible for someone to get into the building otherwise," she said.

For a few days after the shootings, Palo Alto police had an officer stationed on the first floor, she added.

Alta Torre, developed by the nonprofit BRIDGE housing and opened in 2010, consists of one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors. BRIDGE spokesperson Lyn Hikida said the organization's top concern is "for the well-being of our employees and residents."

"We are reaching out directly to staff and Alta Torre residents to provide them with support in the wake of this tragedy," Hikida said.

Related article: Police investigate possible murder-suicide (March 19, 2015)

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2015 at 11:54 am

Gethin is a registered user.

It doesn't matter how strict he was or even the appropriateness of his strictness, all of which from the article seem to be reasonable considering his job responsibilities. The fact that he was killed is a terrible tragedy, nothing mitigates that.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2015 at 10:11 pm

>> Parking on the street is a hardship for older persons, Walker said. Often, it's difficult to find a parking space and then walk back to the complex. On-street cars also have to be moved every 72 hours.

City of Palo Alto - start thinking about the deeper issues with the parking mess you are creating by allowing all of this development with inadequate parking. It may only erupt in small events, or not at all, but it adds a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure on people in their lives.


2 people like this
Posted by Bob S.
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2015 at 11:07 am

The same way Habitat for Humanity® restores homes for those that cannot afford repairs; there should be organizations that repair automobiles for free or a low fee. If the poor man could have gotten his leak fixed and been able to park in his garage instead of the street, two people would still be alive.

How hard would it be to get some experienced auto mechanics to help out senior citizens by fixing cars so they can keep some of their independence and dignity?


7 people like this
Posted by NotTheCause
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:17 pm

@Bob S. If the federal and state governments prevented ordinary citizens from legally possessing firearms instead of encouraging them, two people might still be alive today. I don't think lack of mechanics doing pro bono work is really the cause.


3 people like this
Posted by Bob S.
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Dear NotTheCause,

People resort to violence usually for a reason. He could have also used a knife or another weapon, even a baseball bat. There are already 250 million firearms in the USA. So your statement makes no sense. You would have to go back in time and confiscate all these weapons. When people have no power and nowhere to turn some do these terrible things. Do you give to charity and help the poor?


2 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann, Staff Writer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2015 at 7:20 pm

Does anyone know Marc Miller? I am looking for people who might have been his friends or family. I would like to learn more about him for a story. If anyone does remember him, please contact me at sdremann@paweekly.com.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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