Although African-Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African-Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
NewsOne has partnered with the Black and Missing Foundation to focus on the crisis of missing African-Americans.
To be a part of the solution, NewsOne will profile a missing person weekly and provide tips about how to keep your loved ones safe and what to do if someone goes missing.
Barway Edwin Collins
Case Type: Endangered
DOB: Jan. 1, 2005
Missing Date: March 18, 2015
Age Now: 10
Missing City: Crystal
Missing State: Minnesota
Hair Color: Black
Hair Length: Short
Eye Color: Brown
Wear Glasses or Contacts: No
The rumors about Pierre Collins picked up after police named him a suspect in the disappearance of his 10-year-old son, Barway Collins.
“There were rumors that he took out life insurance, rumors that he was a felon, that was a child molester,” Pastor Harding Smith, a spokesman for the Collins family, told NewsOne in an interview.
Smith, who heads Minnesota Acts Now and Spiritual Church of God, said none of those rumors are true.
Collins did take out a $30,000 life insurance policy on four of his children, but that took place three years ago. Smith also said Collins has no felony record and child abuse allegations against him were found to be unsubstantiated.
Even if they aren’t true, the rumors surrounding Collins are dividing the tight-knit Liberian community in Crystal, Minn. at exactly the time they need to come together to help find the missing child.
“They have lost a lot of friends in the community. People have taken him to trial and found him guilty in the court of public opinion,” said Smith, who said his role as a clergyman was to help a family in need and not speculate on Collins’ guilt or innocence.
“We’ve spoken with the father and he has over and over again maintained his innocence. We want Barway Collins to be in the spotlight. We don’t want this to be about Pierre Collins. We want to do everything we can to bring the boy home,” Smith added.
Barway was last seen on March 18 outside his home at Cedarwood Apartments in Crystal.
The 4th grader had just exited his school bus and was seen at about 4:30 p.m. walking away from the parking lot at his apartment building.
Crystal Police named Collins a suspect in the case after video of Barway on the bus showed him saying that he saw his father and his uncle.
“This video also has audio, which reveals that Barway had verbally stated that he observed his father and another party which he refers to as his “uncle” as he exited the bus. As he approaches his home, it appears he is called over to the parking lot area,” Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering told NewsOne recently.
“The father and the party described as an “uncle” are the last known people to have seen Barway. Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that Barway’s father has not been completely truthful with us,” added Revering, who said that Collins had refused to disclose who the “uncle,” possibly a fictive relative, might be.
Collins has neither been arrested nor charged in connection with his son’s disappearance and has maintained his innocence.
“In working with the police I’ve been truthful with them. Whatever I told them is true,” Collins said in a television interview with 12 News. “I’m willing to work with them so my son can come home.”
Collins said during the time frame his son went missing he was at home with his wife, but then left to go to the store. He says it was possible his son saw him driving off.
“I’m doing everything to bring my son home,” Collins said.
Smith said he’s not upset that Revering named Collins as a suspect.
“There are no other leads and the last person’s name Barway called was his dad and an uncle,” said Smith.
He was also complimentary of the job police have done so far.
“Chief Revering has done a fantastic job on this case. I know she has worked 19 hours on this case on some days, but we need to look at other possibilities as well,” said Smith. “We need to look at sexual predators in the area and broaden our horizons.”
As for police allegations that Collins was not being truthful about identifying the uncle Barway may have been referring to, Smith said Collins claims he is unaware of who his son may have seen.
“In African culture, people who are sometimes not your actual uncle but are close to the family are called uncle out of respect,” said Smith.
That means Barway could have been referring to any number of family friends and acquaintances when he pointed out his “uncle.”
Smith’s feelings were shared this week by several leaders of the Liberian community in the Crystal area.
“Every story about the dad is reducing the level of support Barway Collins deserves,” the Star Tribune reported Abdullah Kiatamba, executive director of African Immigrant Services, as saying.
“[We want to] keep the focus on little Barway, because if we lose track of that, it diminishes the importance of him,” added Seyon Nyanwleh, executive director of the A-Mon-Nue Sports and Social Association.
Smith said all the accusations have weighed heavily on Collins, who is no longer speaking to the media.
“Mr. Collins has lost a considerable amount of weight and he has not been able to work. If he went to work people would be saying: ‘Your son is missing and you are at work!'” said Smith.
“He is at a peculiar place where there is little to no money and the community will need to help this family. The law states that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but it’s not easy in a small town like Crystal,” he added.
Anyone with information about the whereabouts or circumstances of disappearance for Barway Edwin Collins may contact the Crystal Police Department at (952) 258-5321 or (800) 222-8477. Callers may remain anonymous.
The reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for Barway’s disappearance is now up to $12,000.
You may also contact the Black and Missing Foundation’s confidential Tip Line with information.
PHOTO CREDIT: Pastor Harding Smith / Pierre Collins