You would think that the heightened awareness that these incidents, whose frequency is mostly a result of greater media coverage and more widespread availability of video recordings to disprove police lies about these incidents (which remain common), would have lead to restraint by police officers nationwide. But, if you thought that, you would be wrong. These incidents just keep happening, even in places like Boulder, where the local governments are controlled by liberals and the police are used to dealing with unruly college students.
What does it take to bring about change?
The incident describe below happened at this balcony in the apartment building shown below.
[P]olice were called to an apartment at 1841 19th Street in Boulder at around 10:30 p.m. on a report of a man thought to be under the influence of LSD who was attacking others with a knife. Upon their arrival, officers found an injured party who was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover. . . .
[The Boulder Daily Camera] reports that officers encountered [Sam] Forgy [a 22-year-old who was majoring in applied mathematics at CU Boulder] as they were climbing the stairwell to his apartment, on the second floor of the complex. He was nude and holding a hammer. The cops maintain that they repeatedly ordered Forgy to drop the hammer.
Police feared Forgy was going to jump onto them with the hammer, the Daily Camera notes — so one officer tried to Tase him. When the Taser failed to fell Forgy, a second cop fired his gun, killing him. The number of shots hasn't been specified to date; witnesses estimate that there were between three and five. Moreover, one person who heard the exchange said the shooting of the gun and the Taser were close to simultaneous.Via Westword citing a Boulder Camera story. An eye witness account of what happened in the Daily Camera story was less favorable to the police. In that account, Forgy, who was also naked, was already unarmed when he was Tased and shot by the police:
[Nikki] Larsen said she and her husband witnessed the shooting from their deck about 75 yards away. She said they saw police officers run up the stairs before stopping and ordering the suspect to come out.
"We just saw (officers) all running and heading up the stairwell, and they paused on the landing just before the top," Larsen said. Forgy "came out and was standing on the landing, and the officers said, 'Put the hammer down! Put the hammer down!' And he sort of squatted and put the hammer down."
Larsen said she heard the suspect yell, "I'm so tired," then turn to his right and make what appeared to be a lunging motion.
That's when Larsen said she heard what she believes was a Taser, then three gunshots.
Sam Forgy was killed when police shot him on Monday.
I understand that sometimes people point guns at or shoot police, or rush at them with knives, and that responding with a firearm may be their only choice.
It is very hard to conclude that a naked guy on drugs holding a hammer precariously standing alone on a fifteen foot high stairway balcony railing poses the same kind of threat.
Are the Boulder police incapable of backing off and trying to defuse the situation?
Do they not realize that a hammer is rarely a deadly weapon when wielded by a naked college student on drugs who can barely maintain his balance on a balcony railing if they stay several yard away from him?
Are they so unsure of their own physical prowess that they think that two of them, after all the training that they have received, fully clothed and armed with batons and mace are no match for a naked college student on drugs with a hammer?
I am very skeptical of the police claim that Forgy was armed with a hammer when he was Tased and shot when a publicly named, third party eye witness has given a contrary statement to the press.
The officer who fired this shot does not belong on a police force, anywhere. His actions were at a minimum cowardly and proof of his incompetence. Worse, they tend to show a deeply flawed culture in the force, that shoots first, and considers other options only after the suspect is dead. Arguably, this is really a case of simple unpremeditated, perhaps heat of passion, murder.
There is simply no version of the facts available to us in which this shooting was justified as self-defense or to carry out an arrest.
The Boulder Police Department should promptly fire the officer who killed Sam Forgy and then an independent individual should review the case to see if criminal charges should be brought. Rather than an independent individual, however, the key decisions in this case will be made by DA Stan Garnett and police Chief Greg Testa, both of whom have a long term strategic interest in siding with police who engaged in misconduct whenever possible.
The Boulder Police Department and other investigators know which officer fired the shot, but have not disclosed this information to the public and the press:
A spokeswoman for the city of Boulder told CBS4 the officer who fired his weapon has been with the Boulder Police Department since 2013 and is now on paid administrative leave while officials investigate, which is standard procedure.Inexperience may have played a part, or this officer may have been a bad cop cycling from one department to another. This relevant information hasn't yet been disclosed, although it will almost inevitably come out at some point.
UPDATE (June 31, 2015): The police who fired the shot was identified as Dillon Garretson in today's Denver Post.