Police fatally shoot machete-wielding man at University of Colorado

Champions Center © University of Colorado Boulder
An unusual and deadly battle played out in the University of Colorado’s athletics department when a man began threatening people with a machete. The suspect was shot and killed by police when he refused to obey commands to drop his weapon.

The incident began around 9:15am local time with an altercation between two people in the parking lot outside of the Champions Center complex, a newly expanded athletics and sports-medicine facility. During that time, "one of the people involved did brandish a sharp weapon and was menacing with it," University of Colorado (CU) Boulder Police police spokesman Scott Pribble said during a morning news conference. "At some point, he went inside."

It was inside the Champions Center that CU and Boulder police officers confronted the unidentified man with the machete. At 9:28am, a call of “shots fired” was heard over the police scanner, followed by officers reporting that the suspect was down inside a stairwell, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

“We just know that he was directed to put the weapon down and refused, and it was at that time, for public safety, that we believe the shots were fired," Pribble said.

The suspect was described as a white male who appeared to be a "religious zealot of some kind" and who had been overheard talking about "looking for sinners" and referencing the Ten Commandments, a source close to the investigation told the Daily Camera. He reportedly had also written messages believed to be of a religious nature on cars in the parking lot.

Police closed off streets around the building as they investigated, but classes were not canceled and continued on a “normal schedule.” The university asked students to“check in with your loved ones to let them know you are ok,” and asked parents to check with their children as well.

The deceased man has not been identified, and the investigation has been turned over to the Boulder County Critical Incident Team because it was an officer-involved shooting, Pribble told reporters during a press conference.

Although CU’s chief spokesperson confirmed by late morning that the suspect was dead, the campus scare was not over. Shortly after 1pm, there were reports of an active shooter at the University Memorial Center. Police quickly evacuated the UMC and locked down nearby buildings.

There was some confusion as the school tweeted that the report was “FALSE,” but then backtracked half an hour later, saying that there were “unconfirmed reports of an active harmer at the UMC.” Just after 2pm, the school gave the final “all clear,” adding that the report was “believed to be a hoax.”

The university sent out several alerts throughout the day, including one that told students that Wednesday’s planned test of the system was canceled.

“While there was an alerts test scheduled for noon today; this was not a test. Today's alerts test is cancelled. Please continue to avoid the Champions Center and surrounding area until further notice,” the alert read.

Students, however, complained about the confusing nature of the alerts, especially for the afternoon incident.

"Extremely confusing alert messages as well, I was in Hellems (next to the UMC) when this happened, a student in the building told us this was going on and an alert message was sent more than 30 minutes later, then we receive an all clear message, and then a text AFTER the all clear message telling us that the report is unconfirmed and to take appropriate action," Emma Johnson posted on Facebook, according to the Daily Camera.

The University of Colorado Boulder is CU’s flagship campus, with nearly 31,000 degree-seeking students across 150 academic fields and more than 7,600 faculty and staff, according to the school’s website.