Who Is Karen Garner, Loveland Woman Who Was Violently Arrested By Officers And Suffers From Dementia?
LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) - It was an average day for Karen Garner on June 26, 2020, making what her daughter describes as one of her four-times-a-day trips to Walmart near her home in Loveland.
She picked up a Pepsi, a Kit Kat candy, a T-shirt and wipes, items worth less than $14. Garner left the store without paying, she has dementia.
Garner returned the items when store security stopped her and continued on her walk home, a walk that was about to take a very different turn from her usual day.
"This is Mom's jacket that she had on the day that it happened," Garner's daughter Allisa Swartz told CBS News a year later. "And it's got the blood on the back from where her hands were handcuffed."
What happened was Loveland police officers stopped her two blocks from her home then violently arrested her, an arrest recorded by their body cameras. That video was released by the family's attorney when a federal lawsuit was filed nearly a year later on April 14, 2021.
That video and ones from the Loveland Police Department tell the story of an at-risk, 80 pound woman brutally arrested, badly injured and left crying for help while officers ignored her pleas.
Austin Hopp is the officer who made that arrest. In the video, it is clear Garner does not understand what's happening when he approaches her and she turns to continue going home.
He asks her "Do you need to be arrested right now? Okay let's stop. Come on," Hopp says.
Garner repeatedly says she is going home. In seconds, her face is down in the dirt with her arms cuffed behind her back as she continues to plead with Hopp to let her go.
He picks her up, pinning her against the squad car. She cries out "Ow, you hurt me!" as another officer, Daria Jalali, comes around the cruiser. At that point a popping noise can be heard. It was later determined that Garner's shoulder was dislocated, she had a broken arm and sprained wrist as well as scrapes and bruises.
Garner collapsed, then officers threw her to ground. Hopp and Jalali took her to the jail in Loveland where video shows her repeatedly begging for help as she cries. According to court papers say she sat for more than 6 hours without medical attention.
The Garner family paid to have the audio portion from video from the police station enhanced. It reveals the officers mocking the woman, again she's 73 years old, has dementia and weighs 80 pounds.
Hopp is heard to say "I was pushing, pushing, pushing and then I heard 'Pop' and was like 'Oh no.'"
He makes the comments as he and other officers watch the body camera recordings as Garner was chained to a bench feet away. As Hopp laughs, Jalali expresses her discomfort.
"I hate it," she says.
"I love it," Hopp replies.
Jalali reiterates, "I hate it."
Jalali asks, "Did you read her Miranda?" "No" is Hopp's answer.
When asked how he felt the arrest went, Hopp answers "Well, I think it went great. You?" Jalali does not answer.
And that station video damningly reveals officers had questions about her mental state.
"I'm worried she's senile or something," Hopp says on the video.
At one point on the video, Hopp and Jalali even discuss expecting fallout because other people witnessed the arrest. For 10 months nothing happened to the officers. For Karen Garner, it was a different story.
"She's scared, she's anxious," Swartz replied when asked what the arrest and injuries did to her mother's condition. "It has accelerated it."
Her daughter-in-law told reporters Garner's behavior changed after that violent arrest.
"The first 8 seconds of the video that you watched, before Hopp took her down, is Karen Garner. She's walking, she's happy, she's smiling. We haven't seen that since. She just doesn't smile."
By mid-April, 2021, Hopp certainly wasn't laughing anymore, and it's likely Jalali's discomfort was rising.
On April 14, 2021 Sarah Schielke with Life & Liberty Law office filed a federal lawsuit against the Loveland Police Department, Hopp, Jalali and their supervisor Sgt. Philip Metzler. That suit recounts what is seen on the videos before filing seven civil claims including excessive force, deliberate indifference to medial need, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and due process violation.
Schielke also released the body camera from Officer Hopp to the media.
The next day, Hopp and Jalali were taken off patrol duties. Jalali was moved to office duty and Hopp was placed on paid administrative leave.
Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer promised an independent investigation into the case while saying he was not aware of Garner's injuries until the lawsuit was filed.
Within days, the Larimer County District Attorney asked the Northern Colorado Critical Incident Response Team to investigate the arrest and aftermath.
CBS4's Dillon Thomas recently did an interview on CBSN Denver to discuss the Garner arrest, the many developments in the case he has broken in his reporting and how it has impacted the community in northern Colorado. Watch the complete video below.
A week after that, Schielke released the video from the police station. That's when more was learned about what the officers said after the arrest. After that release, three more oficers were placed on leave.
Then on April 30, Ticer announced the Hopp, Jalali and Blackett were allowed to resign.
More than a month after that lawsuit was filed and after the CIRT investigation, District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin filed criminal charges against Hopp and Jalali. Both turned themselves in to the Larimer County Jail the following day, May 20, and were released after posting bond.
The district attorney says he, like Ticer, did not know Garner was injured until the lawsuit was filed.
Hopp is charged with a felony count of assault causing serious bodily injury, a felony count of attempting to influence an officer and a count of misdemeanor misconduct. Jalali faces three misdemeanor charges: failure to report use of force, failure to intervene and misconduct. Ticer said he supported the criminal charges.
But for the Garner family, those charges proved disappointing.
"I feel like these are pretty minimal crimes that they put against them," Garner's daughter said. "There's a whole list of charges that they could have put against the officers. They just put a few. You can see the video, they're laughing at my mom. They're making fun of her."
Garner's failure to pay for $13.88 worth of merchandise at a Walmart led to her encounter with the police, even though she returned the merchandise.
The state criminal and federal lawsuit are still moving through the courts.
Hopp was employed with the Loveland Police Department for one year and Jalali for three years. Blackett served in a civilian role for two years before his departure. Metzler was Hopp's and Jalali's supervisor and he remains on administrative leave pending the findings of the independent, third-party internal affairs investigation.
Ticer says the department has gone through additional training for identifying people who have Alzheimers disease and dementia.
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