One of two Taser probes fired at a University of Colorado student during his fatal encounter with Boulder police this week missed its mark — possibly just seconds before another officer fired his handgun multiple times at the 22-year-old, officials said Thursday.
Police offered new details of Monday night's officer-involved shooting, which claimed the life Samuel Forgy, who was accused of attacking two men with a knife before confronting two responding officers with a hammer.
Dillon Garretson, a two-year veteran of the Boulder Police Department, was identified Thursday as the officer who fired the fatal shots.
Police were dispatched to 1841 19th St. shortly after 10:30 p.m. Monday after an apartment resident called 911 to report a man who had taken LSD was acting erratically and was outside screaming.
Forgy reportedly attacked two people with a knife, leaving one man with a six-inch gash on his face and a bite wound.
When officers arrived, Forgy came out of the apartment naked and holding a hammer, according to police.
Officers repeatedly ordered Forgy to drop the tool, officials said, and police have now corroborated accounts from a witness who saw the incident and said Forgy initially squatted as if he was going to place the hammer down on a landing.
But police on Thursday revealed additional details, saying the officers on scene told investigators Forgy picked the hammer up again, then "quickly moved" toward the balcony's hand railing above the officers, who were on the landing below him.
Officer Darren Fladung fired his Taser at Forgy, but officials said one of the two probes lodged in the wall behind Forgy, which meant the circuit could not be completed and the Taser did not shock the suspect.
Garretson then fired his weapon "multiple times," striking Forgy, who fell to the landing below and was pronounced dead.
The hammer was found beneath his body, according to police.
'Perhaps by seconds'
Garretson has been placed on paid leave while the shooting is investigated by a multi-jurisdictional team that will report its findings to the district attorney.
"This is such a sad situation. Clearly, it is tragic for Mr. Forgy's family, and our hearts go out to them," Boulder police Chief Greg Testa said in a statement. "It is also a difficult and emotional situation for the officers who were called upon to make split-second decisions about how to ensure their safety and the safety of those around them.
"There was a moment when officers thought Mr. Forgy was going to cooperate, so they could take him into custody and resolve the situation. Unfortunately, that did not occur."
But neighbor Nikki Larsen told the Daily Camera in an interview Tuesday that she heard the Taser and the gunshots almost simultaneously.
"There was a crackle and then 'pop, pop, pop,'" Larsen told the Camera. "One after the other. It was less than a second. In an instant of time, Taser — then three gunshots."
Boulder police spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said she could not provide the exact time that elapsed between the firing of the Taser and the handgun.
"We do believe the use of the Taser and the firing of the service weapon was sequential, not simultaneous, but perhaps by seconds as this whole situation evolved very, very quickly," Huntley said.
Huntley said she did not know whether Garretson also was carrying a Taser — not all officers do — or how many shots he fired from his handgun.
"While the department encourages less-lethal techniques whenever possible, there is no requirement that officers use a Taser first or instead of their service weapon, if they feel the threat is imminent and deadly force is necessary," Huntley said.
'They had a lot of options'
Teri Font is a childhood friend of Forgy's who met him when they both were living in Iowa City, Iowa. She moved to Denver with him after high school.
On Thursday, Font said she had spoken with officials at the Boulder County Coroner's Office, and was told Forgy was shot three times: twice in the chest and once in the head.
Font acknowledged that officers have to make split-second decisions, but she said she's upset at police for killing her friend.
"He didn't have a gun. He was one 140-pound boy who was naked," Font said. "There was no reason to shoot him."
Font said she wished police had tried to subdue Forgy or successfully fired a non-lethal shot first.
"I'm upset at how they handled it," Font said. "I understand they have tough choices... It just seems like they had a lot of options before shooting him."
In a news conference earlier this week, Huntley explained that when officers fire their service weapon, they are trained to shoot to kill.
"Generally speaking, our police officers, like police officers across the country, are trained that if they're going to use deadly force, they have to stop the threat," Huntley said. "Officers are trained as a matter of procedure to aim for center mass."
Font said she disagrees with that training method. She said she had seen Forgy take LSD before without violent reactions, and said she wonders whether he had a psychotic episode on top of the effects of the drug.
Either way, she said wished that police had subdued Forgy — an applied mathematics major at CU — so he could have gotten help.
"I think cops need to stop shooting to kill," Font said. "If he was on LSD, you can charge him for that, you can charge him for cutting the other boy if they had a fight or whatever.
"If he was alive, he could have a trial for that. He could be in a psych ward or in jail, and he could still be my friend. He could still do mathematics.
"They didn't just steal the life of my best friend. They also stole one of the best minds of our generation."