Crime

Man acquitted of murder of South Miami-Dade security guard

Nathaniel Payne-Collins, 22, left, was acquitted at trial on allegations he murdered security guard Robert Nelson in South Miami-Dade in August 2013. At right is his defense attorney, Ayuban Tomas.
Nathaniel Payne-Collins, 22, left, was acquitted at trial on allegations he murdered security guard Robert Nelson in South Miami-Dade in August 2013. At right is his defense attorney, Ayuban Tomas. Miami Herald

A Miami man is not guilty of murdering a security guard but did steal the slain man’s pistol, a jury decided on Monday.

Jurors acquitted Nathaniel Payne-Collins, 22, in the killing of security guard Robert Nelson, who was shot to death ambush-style while patrolling a South Miami-Dade apartment complex in August 2013. He was convicted of grand theft for stealing Nelson’s weapon.

The 12-person jury rejected testimony from a co-defendant who testified that Payne-Collins was one of the triggermen. Miami-Dade prosecutors said Payne-Collins also confessed to another pal the day after the shooting.

The split verdict — jurors clearly believed Payne-Collins was at the crime scene — shocked Nelson’s relatives and investigators on the case.

“I am so angry and so disappointed,” Miami-Dade homicide Detective Rich Raphael said. “My heart aches for the victim’s family.”

Nelson, a former flight attendant, was a uniformed 50 State security guard who was patrolling the Hidden Grove apartment complex in his company car. The gunmen opened fire, causing him to crash into a nearby daycare — then, the attackers pulled him out of the car and stole his belongings and gun.

As he awaits sentencing for the gun theft, Payne-Collins won’t be getting out jail because he is facing a robbery charge in an unrelated case.

Two other men are awaiting trial, including another alleged gunman, Quentin Vicks, 21. Defendant Gregory Lewis has already pleaded guilty, and is serving a 10-year sentence.

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