The community of Fort Myers Beach is mourning the death of a former Beach resident and noted drummer that had performed with bands involved on the Beach entertainment circuit for many years.
Thomas Kollman, age 48, died early Saturday morning during a traffic incident. According to the police report, a Lee County deputy allegedly shot him in self-defense.
Kollman, who was currently residing at 6936 Wittman Drive in Fort Myers, was driving a Jeep Wrangler when the on-duty deputy attempted to perform a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle at 3:39 a.m. The report said Kollman pulled into the back of Love Boat Home Made Ice Cream at 16229 San Carlos Blvd. and, when the deputy approached the vehicle, an armed Kollman engaged him. Shots were fired, Kollman was killed and the deputy was not injured.
Kollman, top left in tank top, was a member of the band 'Knucklehead' years ago.
The deputy's name was not included in the report. His name is being withheld for investigation reasons. The Lee County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit is investigating the case.
"We are holding some information to protect the integrity of the investigation," said a spokesperson from the Lee Sheriff's Public Information Office.
Some friends thought Kollman acted depressed in the days before his death. His father's passing some time ago also affected Kollman dearly.
Kollman was booked on misdemeanor charges of "loitering (prowling)" and "drug equipment-possession (and or use)" on Nov. 28, the day before his 48th birthday. He was reportedly let go from his job at Mermaid Lounge the last week of November, before that arrest, according to Maria DeFazio, bartender of the establishment.
"Tommy's death is raising many questions," said Beach resident John Heim. "He was the kind of guy who helped me move, helped an elderly woman who fell to the ground, a kind, gentle man who wouldn't leave the house without his positive smile and sense of chivalry that was proof that it still exists in our society. Tommy was a stand-up man to the point that he was a human example of what this island is truly all about - a real community-driven human being. The Beach lost a friend and island family member who can never be replaced, yet who will live in our character as a beach forever."
Others were just stunned by the news of Kollman's passing.
"There are no words to describe how I am feeling about the loss of my dear friend, Tommy Kollman," said musician John Hyatt. "I am in complete shock, denial and saddened by his passing. The times that we jammed together were some of the most memorable and magical times that I can remember. Rest in peace, brother."
"I knew him for the past 10 years or so and sat in on a couple of songs with him over the years. He was such a talented musician and amazing guy," said musician Tommy V. "I didn't know him as well as many others, but he always greeted me with a smile, and we would converse on music topics and issues that musicians see. Tommy would always go out of his way to shake my hand and say 'hi' whenever I saw him working at the Mermaid. He was a great guy and will be missed but not forgotten."
Patrick McGuire was a band member of Kollman's in the group "Cinder" years ago and kept in touch. He calls the death of a "loving, giving, kind person" a tragedy.
"Everyone who knew Tommy knows that what happened is completely out of character. It just doesn't fit with the kind of person that he was," he said. "That is what makes this so devastating for all of us. Tommy was not a person to make trouble. He was one of the kindest people I ever knew. I can't count how many times he lifted me up when I needed it. He never asked for help; he always gave help and sometimes to a fault. I wished he reached out if he was having problems. But that wasn't in his nature. He had to be the strongest one."
A memorial is being planned for Friday evening, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m., at Bowditch Point Park, along the north end of the island. A benefit arts and music event for Tommy's family is also being planned.