Colorado police accused of injuring elderly woman with dementia during arrest
A federal lawsuit has been filed against a Loveland, Colorado, police department and two of its officers after a 73-year-old woman with dementia was injured during an arrest.
Karen Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, fractured arm and sprained wrist after officers with the Loveland Police Department slammed her to the ground and hog-tied her June 26, 2020, the lawsuit states.
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The arresting officer was placed on administrative leave as the incident is investigated, the department said in a news release Thursday. An assisting officer and police supervisor were reassigned to administrative duties, it stated.
The incident began when Garner was accused of stealing $13.88 worth of items from a Walmart. Schielke said her client has dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate with people or understand others’ communications.
The attorney said because of the dementia, her client forgot to pay for the items.
Walmart did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.
After leaving the store, Garner was walking through a field two blocks from her home. She was stopped by Loveland police Officer Austin Hopp, according to the suit.
In body-camera video provided by Schielke, Hopp asks Garner to stop walking and talk to him. Garner is seen, shrugging her shoulders as she continues to walk.
Hopp grabs Garner and roughly takes her to the ground and handcuffs her. Garner repeatedly tells the officer, “I’m going home.”
Hopp then forces Garner to her feet and walks her over to his police car as a female officer arrives to assist. The suit identified the second officer as Daria Jalali.
Both officers are seen in the video struggling to get Garner into the back seat of the police car.
A bystander watching the arrest questions the officers on using “that much aggression.” Hopp tells the witness to “get out of here” and says, it’s “not your business.”
As the struggle with Garner continues, Hopp tells Jalali to help him get Garner on the ground. He then hog-ties her ankles, the video shows. Garner is then forced into the back of the police car.
The lawsuit states that Garner was “crying for home.”
“She was bleeding from the nose, forehead, and wrist, all over herself,” it says.
Bodycam footage shows a police officer bringing a 70 year old woman, who has dementia, to the ground after stealing $14 worth of groceries in Loveland, Colo.The Life & Liberty Law Office / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VG0wfPMMR4k
A Loveland police sergeant, identified in the lawsuit as Phil Metzler, arrives on scene. At one point, the video shows Metzler commenting about how muddy the officers are.
“A little bloody. A little muddy. That’s how it works,” Jalali says. Hopp tells the sergeant the blood is Garner’s.
Schielke said her client did not stop when the officer asked because she didn’t understand him.
“When she indicated she did not understand him, and turned to continue walking home, [Hopp] grabbed her and violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her,” she said in a statement. “Just eight seconds passed between Officer Hopp reaching Ms. Garner and Officer Hopp throwing her tiny body to the ground and putting her in handcuffs.”
The attorney accused officer Jalali of assisting Hopp in “violently and needlessly” injuring Garner. Metzler, the attorney said, did not offer Garner any medical assistance.
Metzler deactivated his body-worn camera, according to the lawsuit.
Garner was taken to the police station where she remained for more than two hours before being sent to the Larimer County jail. The district attorney later dropped charges against her.
The Loveland Police Department said in its statement that it takes the allegations seriously “and shares with the community the concerns about video images that became public on Wednesday.”
“LPD had not previously received a complaint regarding serious injuries to Karen Garner, and learned only on April 14 of the allegations surrounding her arrest,” the statement said. “The investigation of the event will include an examination of the actions of all officers who may have been involved.”
Schielke said her client has become withdrawn and depressed since the incident.
“Ms. Garner’s experience with Loveland Police is not about bad apples,” she said. “It is about culture. And the culture in Loveland is one of lack of care, lack of humility.”
Hopp and Jalali did not immediately return NBC News’ request for comment. Metzler could not be reached at phone numbers listed publicly for him.