Body camera footage from a disturbing arrest in Loveland, Colorado was released by Life & Liberty Law Firm this past week.
The incident which involves two Loveland Police Department officers and a sergeant took place in June 2020. Within the frightening two-and-a-half minute clip, an officer struggles to detain an elderly woman as she appears to be walking along the side of the road towards her residence.
According to NBC News, the woman is 73-year-old Karen Garner who suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia. The police were called after Garner allegedly stole $13.88 worth of items from a Walmart. A Loveland officer identified as Austin Hopp was the first to catch up to her on her way home, a lawsuit states. Body cam footage shows Hopp telling Garner to stop walking and talk to him. When she disregards his demand, Hopp gets out of his vehicle and grabs Garner, hurling her to the ground. “I’m going home,” Garner pleads with Hopp. Eventually he’s able to handcuff the senior citizen before a female officer arrives to assist.
The second officer Daria Jalali tries to help Hopp force the senior citizen into his squad car. But after a few moments, Hopp is tired of struggling and asks Jalali to help him place her on the ground. The video shows Hopp hog-tie Garner’s ankles and then lift her into the back seat of the police car.
A federal lawsuit alleging civil rights and ADA violations was filed on Wednesday, April 14, by Garner’s attorney Sarah Schielke. It states the 73-year-old “was bleeding from the nose, forehead, and wrist, all over herself.” Schielke said her client did not initially stop for Hopp because she didn’t understand him, which is common for people who have sensory aphasia. The Loveland sergeant also named in the suit can be seen arriving later on in the video. He checks in with his officers and notices the blood stains on their uniforms, however, it does not appear that he ever attempts to provide any aid to Garner.
Scielke summarized her client’s experience in a statement. “This is not community policing. This is community terrorism,” she wrote. “Ms. Garner is one of the most vulnerable members of our community – a mother, a grandmother, a tiny, frail human with cognitive disabilities – and they treated her like an animal.” “And,” Schielke added, “if this is what they’re doing to a terrified elderly lady with dementia, what do you think they’re doing to everyone else?”
For two hours, Garner sat at the Loveland police station before she was sent to the Larimer County Jail. All charges against her were later dismissed by a district attorney. The Loveland Police Department released a statement via its Facebook account mentioning they “had not previously received a complaint regarding serious injuries to Karen Garner.” “The investigation of the event will include an examination of the actions of all officers who may have been involved,” the statement reads. While the department investigates the matter, officer Hopp has been placed on administrative leave. Jalali and the responding sergeant were reassigned to administrative duties.