LOVELAND, Colo. — The Loveland police officer accused of excessive force in the arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia has been placed on administrative leave, the police department announced on Thursday.
The department said it "takes very very seriously the allegations concerning the arrest of resident Karen Garner, and shares with the community the concerns about video images that became public on Wednesday."
The video was released through civil rights attorney Sarah Schielke, of The Life & Liberty Law Office, who filed an excessive force lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Garner, who was arrested June 26, 2020. The police department on Thursday said it became aware of the lawsuit and the allegations "late Wednesday."
"When we see allegations of serious bodily injury, excessive force, we take them very seriously. In this case, we're taking it very seriously and respecting it as we should. Once that information came to us yesterday, we have gotten on this case very aggressively, very rapidly," Loveland Chief of Police Robert Ticer said.
The department said another officer involved in Garner's arrest and the supervisor at the scene have been reassigned to administrative duties.
"The investigation of the event will include an examination of the actions of all officers who may have been involved," a police statement said.
Police did not name the officers who were placed on leave or reassigned, but the lawsuit on Wednesday gave an account of what allegedly happened.
The lawsuit claims Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder and broken arm during the arrest on June 26, 2020 in a field two blocks from her Loveland home.
Garner was arrested after a shoplifting incident at a nearby Walmart. According to the lawsuit, Garner was suspected of leaving the store without paying for $13.88 worth of items, a common practice among those with dementia, the suit claims.
The store called police and she was stopped by a Loveland officer as she was walking home.
Nearly thirty minutes of body camera footage released by the law office show police interactions in the moments leading up, during and after the arrest of Garner. The video can be seen in its entirety below (caution: disturbing).
In the video, Officer Austin Hopp said, "Alright let's stop ma'am. I don't think you want to play it this way. Ma'am, police. Stop," as he exited his patrol car.
Garner appears confused and responds with mumbling.
Two minutes into the body cam video the suit says Hopp grabs Garner's left arm and takes her to ground.
Garner is eventually handcuffed and taken the patrol car.
The suit says when Officer Daria Jalali arrived on scene she, "put her own hands on Ms. Garner to hold her while Officer Hopp continued pushing painfully upward on Ms. Garner’s already-restrained left arm and while also violently touching her all over her body."
Throughout the video the 73-year-old woman is exclaiming, “I’m going home!” to officers.
"It makes you very worried about vulnerable people in the community with a police force like that," said Schielke. "The behavior is indefensible they knew they were being recorded and yet they did it anyway, we have to ask, 'why?'"
Garner was eventually taken to a hospital for treatment. The district attorney’s office completely dismissed the case and charges against her, the law office said. She is currently living in a memory care facility.
Ticer said the department makes 3,000-4,000 arrests in a year, and this is the first allegation of excessive force with serious injury in the last year.
"Anytime there’s a complaint against law enforcement, there’s always a real possibility of trust — losing public trust," Ticer said. "That’s the last thing that our community wants. That’s the last thing our Police Department wants is to see fractures of trust."
The 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office issued a statement Thursday evening saying that Garner’s case was dismissed previously and that the current administration “has not previously had the opportunity to review this incident and no investigation regarding any improper use of force has been presented to our office.” It added that it “shares the community’s concern regarding the level of force shown in the video.”
The office said it was not aware of the incident until Wednesday’s news reports and said it is “processing the information we have and will continue to review facts as they are provided.
“Our office is committed to fair and professional reviews of alleged excessive use of force. After further review, the District Attorney's Office will consider whether an independent criminal investigation is warranted,” the DA’s office said in a statement.
A Walmart spokesperson said in a statement Friday afternoon that a store employee called police after she allegedly took off an employee's facemask.
“We stopped Ms. Garner after noticing her attempt to take merchandise from the store without paying for it. When we addressed this issue directly with her the situation escalated when she forcibly removed an associate’s facemask and fled the store. The police were called only after Ms. Garner became physical with an associate,” the company said.
Denver7's Gary Brode contributed to this report.