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'A Gut Punch': Former Loveland Police Officer May Reach Plea Agreement Against Wishes Of Karen Garner's Family

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) - Nearly two years after allegedly breaking the arm of an elderly woman living with dementia during a controversial arrest, former Loveland Police officer Austin Hopp could soon be accepting a plea agreement to lessen a possible jail sentence. The family of Karen Garner, who suffered from a broken arm, sprained wrist and separated shoulder during her arrest by Hopp, tells CBS4 the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office plans to offer Hopp a plea agreement at a disposition hearing on Wednesday morning in Larimer County.

karen-garner-arrest-loveland
(credit: CBS)

Shannon Steward, Garner's daughter-in-law, told CBS4's Dillon Thomas her family was asked to review and consider an agreement which would lessen the charges Hopp faces, ultimately lowering the amount of time that could be served behind bars.

Hopp first encountered Karen Garner in June of 2020 after being dispatched to a report of an attempted theft at a Loveland Walmart. Garner, who lives with dementia, allegedly tried to steal less than $15 worth of goods from the Walmart. When confronted by Walmart staff she returned the items and walked out of the store.
Body camera footage from Hopp showed him approaching Garner as she walked home. Carrying a wildflower in her hand, she failed to comply to multiple orders to stop. That is when Hopp is seen grabbing Garner by the arm and forcefully taking her to the ground.

As fellow now-former officer Daria Jalali responded to the scene, Hopp allegedly separated Garner's shoulder by forcing her arm behind her back and up near her shoulder blades. An audible pop is heard on the camera, something Hopp acknowledged hearing in footage later released by Loveland police.

Garner was taken to an intake holding facility at Loveland Police Department where she complained multiple times about having injuries. She was forced to sit in a holding cell without medical attention for hours, even after Hopp, Jalali and another Loveland employee were heard on security footage acknowledging that she may have injuries.

Austin Hopp in Court2
(credit: CBS)

After a brief investigation Hopp resigned from Loveland police, as did Jalali. Both were arrested and charged with crimes related to the Garner arrest.

The felony charges Hopp faces could land him in prison for more than 30 years, if found guilty and sentenced.

However, in February of 2022, Garner's family was asked to consider the possibility of the Larimer County District Attorney's Office offering a plea agreement, something they had originally conveyed they were not interested in entertaining.

"Back in May, when they announced charges, we were adamant we wouldn't accept a plea deal," Steward told CBS4. "Now having the DA's office offer a plea deal and lessen what we all started out with is very disconcerting, It felt like a gut punch. It felt like more damage to Karen's legacy."

However, Steward said her family still took a week to review the possible plea offer and consider it completely as an option.

"We came back unanimously stating that we absolutely would reject the offer of a plea deal," Steward said. "We did consider how this would affect Hopp's life. We are not immune to the fact that this could be some hard jail time. But it fits the charges. We felt, at the end of the day, let justice run its course. It is not up to us to convict him, but it is up to the court system."

Steward said her family reported their conclusion back to Larimer County Assistant District Attorney Matt Maillaro. However, Garner's family accuses the DA's office of deciding to move forward with the plea offer even after the family rejected it.

"It feels like a betrayal. It feels like everyone was willing to jump up and call for justice when this was all over the media and in the spotlight. And here we are nine months later, and they are willing to sweep it under the rug," Steward said. "We know a lot about this case because of the videos. Clearly, we felt there was enough evidence before the assault, during the assault and after the assault that this would easily hold up in court. So, we don't see any reason we would lessen the charges."

Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali
Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali (credit: Larimer County)

CBS4 made multiple calls and sent multiple emails requesting comment on the possible plea offer to both Austin Hopp's lawyer, and the Larimer County District Attorney's Office on both Thursday night and Friday morning. The lawyer didn't respond but the DA's office confirmed there was a disposition hearing scheduled for Wednesday, but they couldn't comment beyond that.

The Larimer County courts docket shows Hopp is scheduled to make an appearance for a disposition hearing on Wednesday morning in Fort Collins. A letter from the DA's office obtained by CBS4 confirmed that the Garner Family was asked to make an appearance at Wednesday's hearing as a possible plea agreement could be reached and possibly approved by a judge.

Steward, and the Garner Family, were not willing to disclose the specifics of an offer which they were presented out of respect to the court process. However, Steward said the family has prepared a victim statement on behalf of Karen, who reportedly has mentally regressed since the arrest.

"We are not going to argue the merits of this case. We think it is absolutely obvious. And we are not going to argue an emotional argument. We want to appeal to the judge we are not getting swift justice. We are not getting what we deserve, which is a day in court," Steward said. "We do feel a bit of responsibility to continue to uphold this and give Hopp his day in court so justice can be done for all the parties involved, not just our family."

In 2021 Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer told CBS4 he supported the original charges filed against Hopp and Jalali.

Jalali is currently scheduled for a court appearance related to her case a day before Hopp's disposition hearing, on Tuesday.

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