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Sam Forgy's Friends Mourn CU Student Slain by Police, Question Response

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The last time Teri Font saw her longtime friend Sam Forgy, he was relaxed and in a mood to celebrate. The 22-year-old University of Colorado student had just completed an intensive math course and was looking forward to the start of the fall semester and a prestigious internship that involved studying how lasers could be used to reposition satellites. "He was the happiest I'd ever seen him," Font says. 

Less than 24 hours later, Forgy was dead, shot by a Boulder officer. As Michael Roberts reported two weeks ago, police had been summoned to Forgy's apartment complex by a 911 call about a man behaving erratically; Forgy had allegedly bitten two roommates, attacked one with a knife, and was said to be on LSD. Officers confronted Forgy, nude and armed with a hammer, on a landing of the apartment complex. After an attempt to use a taser on the suspect failed to connect, BPD officer Dillon Garretson fired multiple shots.

Many troubling questions remain about the fatal shooting, as Forgy's friends and family await the release of a toxicology report and other information. There have been conflicting accounts of how quickly Garretson fired after the taser attempt missed, whether Forgy was still wielding the hammer when shot or had put it down, whether he was preparing to pounce on officers from a stairwell railing. But the incident has renewed concerns about police training in dealing with delusional or mentally ill suspects, with Boulder gadfly Jann Scott issuing a YouTube "call to action." 

The entire episode has been difficult to fathom for Font and others in Forgy's close-knit circle of friends. Font met Forgy at Iowa City High School eight years ago and moved with him to Colorado with the aim of starting a band together. A struggling student in high school, Forgy lived in Five Points and attended community college in Denver before transferring to CU, where he quickly established himself as an outstanding student of applied mathematics and a popular tutor.

"We would just sit there and talk math to each other, conversations that other people didn't want any part of," recalls Lena Hamilton, who met Forgy shortly after he arrived in Colorado. 

"When he first got here, he was very shy and withdrawn," Font recalls. But that had changed in recent months, as Forgy became more confident about his studies and even found time to go out dancing at clubs. Although some friends suspect Forgy may have had some kind of abrupt "psychotic break," Font says he exhibited no previous signs of mental illness. News accounts have suggested a batch of "bad acid" might be responsible, but Font says Forgy wasn't a frequent user of psychedelics. "He barely even drank," she says. "He made really complicated electronic music that he would program into the computer, and you need to be able to function to do that." 

Hamilton has been told that other residents of the same apartment complex had been the subject of previous mental-health calls to police. "The cops had been called there multiple times, and Sam wasn't a big, scary guy," she notes. "I don't understand why this had to happen this way."

Font says she's spoken to one of Sam's roommates, who described him as "scared" and wandering between the apartment and the landing before the police arrived.  After one roommate was reportedly bitten while trying to restrain Forgy, and another suffered a head wound from a knife, the group vacated the apartment and called 911 from a neighbor's phone. She wonders if a better-prepared response could have saved Forgy's life without endangering the responders.

"Everybody was already in a safe place by the time the police arrived," Font says. "The police were following their training, and that's the problem." 

Friends of Forgy are planning an informal memorial gathering in coming days. When we know the details, we'll post an update. 

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