Police: Knife-wielding man killed by Boulder officer was wearing 'body armor'

BOULDER, Colo. - Boulder police say a man shot and killed by a SWAT officer Sunday was wearing "body armor" when he ran at officers with a knife in each hand raised high in the air.

The coroner on Monday identified the dead man as Michael Habay, 42, of Boulder. While an autopsy has been completed, Boulder County Coroner Emma R. Hall said Habay's cause and manner of death are pending further investigation.

The Boulder Police Department released new details about the deadly confrontation that happened at about 12:46 p.m. Sunday at an apartment building at 3009 Madison St.

Police said at about 7:30 a.m. on the day of the shooting the mother of Habay's girlfriend called 911 to report a possible "domestic situation" at the apartment building. The mother said she was worried about her daughter's welfare.

Officers talked with the girlfriend, 41-year-old Kirsten Stenseng, outside of the apartment. Stenseng told police nothing had happened between her and her boyfriend.

However, police said they determined Habay had violated a protection order. Officers knocked on the door of the man's apartment, but no one answered the door. They decided Habay could be charged with the protection order violation later and the officers left.

At about 12:30 p.m., a neighbor called 911 to report Habay was using a large knife to stab a wooden post outside his apartment unit and had been yelling and throwing things out of his apartment. The neighbor was concerned Habay's girlfriend could be in the apartment and she might be in danger, police said.

Officers returning to the apartment, but couldn't find the girlfriend. They spotted her gold Cadillac parked in the parking lot, police said.

Based on the 911 call, police said officers had reason to believe the victim was in the apartment and might be in danger.

Officers assembled an entry team of four officers and tried to make contact with anyone inside the woman's apartment.  After attempts with no response, the officers decided to force open the apartment door to check on people inside, police said.

After forcing the door open, officers said they saw Habay running toward them, holding a knife in each hand in a "high position."

Police said the officer closest to the entry door, Nick Smetzer, had to use a protective shield to deflect the armed man as Habay ran past Smetzer toward Officer Vincent Gallerani. 

Officer Gallerani was unable to retreat before the suspect was upon him, police said. 

Thinking Smetzer had been injured and he was about to be stabbed, Officer Gallerani used his assault rifle to fire three shots at very close range, striking the suspect at least two times, police said. Habay immediately fell while still holding the knives. Smetzer kicked the knives out of the suspect’s hands. 

Habay later died at the hospital.

Police said Habay was wearing a black T-shirt, khaki pants and body armor, the type used for dirt bike riding or paint ball games.  He had on shoulder pads and a breast pad, elbow pads and shin guards on. He was also wearing furry Ugg boots, police said.

After the shooting, police learned that Stenseng was safe in a nearby apartment with another resident. No one else was located in the suspect’s apartment.

During the follow-up investigation, police said they found Habay had posted threatening comments directed at Stenseng on social media websites. "One comment indicated that he would kill Stenseng," police said in a Monday news release.

"It is always unfortunate when an officer has to use deadly force, and it is a very emotional experience for any officer who is put in this situation," Police Chief Mark Beckner said in a statement. "We are very thankful none of our officers were injured by this attack.  Additionally, our condolences go out to the suspect’s family for their loss.

"From what we know right now, it appears as though the officers took reasonable measures to protect everyone's safety, but were forced into a very difficult and life threatening situation," the chief added.

Yet, the dead man's father, William Habay, called the police shooting of his son "murder,"
 according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

"He had knives, they had rifles. That's murder," the father told the newspaper.

Police said Officer  Gallerani is a 14-year veteran of the department and a team leader on the department’s SWAT team. Gallerani received a Chief's Commendation earlier this year for his role in successfully handling an incident at the police department involving an individual who appeared might have an explosive device.

Smetzer is a 12-year veteran who also a member of the SWAT team.  Other officers in the immediate area at the time of the shooting were Officer Ryan Lord, a 13-year veteran, and Officer Jenny Paddock, a 17-year veteran of the department, police said.

The Boulder County Investigative Team is investigating the shooting and will present its results to the Boulder County District Attorney. Officer Gallerani remains on paid leave pending the completion of the investigation.


NOTE: This story is being republished because it had auto-expired. The original date of publication was Nov. 25, 2013. 

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