DENVER – Karen Garner’s family members and their attorney said Wednesday they are pleased that two of the former officers involved in her violent arrest were charged, but that they believe more charges are warranted and that others involved need to face consequences.
The 8th Judicial District Attorney filed criminal charges Wednesday against former Loveland police officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali in connection with their arrest of Garner last summer and their official actions in the wake of the incident.
Hopp faces two felony counts: second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury and attempt to influence a public servant. He also faces a misdemeanor official misconduct charge. Jalali was charged with failure to report use of force by a peace officer, failure to intervene, and first-degree official misconduct — all misdemeanors.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Garner’s family’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, who filed the federal lawsuit that brought the video and case to light and allegedly to the attention of the police department, and Garner’s daughter and daughter-in-law addressed the charges and outcome of the independent investigation.
“That is a start, but it’s not good enough,” Schielke said of the charges for Hopp and Jalali. “Make no mistake, the Garner family feels immense relief the DA’s Office has charged some of these criminals with actual crimes. … Ultimately, the DA’s Office’s decision to stop their charging decision after Hopp and Jalali has left the family with more questions than answers and more concern than relief.”
Schielke questioned how with all of the people involved in the incident and the reporting structure of the police department no one else – including Sgt. Phil Metzler, the supervisor on scene that day – was facing charges or further repercussions.
Metzler remains on administrative leave for an undisclosed period of time, LPD Chief Robert Ticer said in a news conference just before Schielke and Garner’s daughter and daughter-in-law spoke.
An affidavit for Hopp’s arrest released Wednesday says that Hopp was aware he might have broken Garner’s shoulder and also knew that “this is going to turn into something,” as Jalali said to him. The affidavit also says that Garner told Hopp 14 times that her shoulder hurt, and he did not offer her medical treatment.
It also says he failed to send an officer to the hospital after Garner was taken there despite a corporal telling him to send someone there, and that he and Jalali “should have used less forceful methods because of [Garner’s] obvious state of mind.” Garner has dementia.
Further, the affidavit states that Hopp was misleading in his reports to his superiors, including the narrative he gave in his Blue Team excessive force report.
“This is not an excessive force case. It’s torture. In broad daylight, by multiple officers — some in supervisory capacities,” Schielke said. “Hopp’s conduct is certainly criminal and reprehensible, but multiple other officers assisted.”
“How is it that just six criminal charges against two officers is the result while everyone else at the Loveland Police Department … remains employed?” she added.
Schielke argued that she believes Jalali and others could have been charged as an accessory to the alleged crimes Hopp committed and listed off a host of felony and misdemeanor charges she believes Hopp, Jalali and Metzler could have also faced.
“I’m not a district attorney but I can read the criminal code,” she said.
District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said earlier in the day that the CIRT investigation did not find further criminal charges were warranted beyond what has already been charged.
She said she believes Metzler should face further consequences, including possible charges and termination, and questioned why Ticer, the city manager, and some city council members “still believe they are qualified to stay in those positions.”
“After the second video, Chief Ticer should have resigned,” Schielke said. “This was no longer a rogue incident involving a bad apple. This was something that happened inside his house, hwere he’s in charge.”
When asked about continued calls for his resignation at the news conference just beforehand, Ticer pointed to “a lot of emotions” in the community and said the desire for justice accountability was “what we’re seeing right now” with the former officers being charged.
Schielke said that Garner’s family has taken note that the officers’ actions captured on body camera day during their arrest of Garner “generated zero criminal charges.”
Garner’s daughter, Allisa Swartz, echoed similar sentiments.
“I feel like these are pretty minimal crimes that they put against them, and there’s a whole list of charges they could have put against these officers. And they just put a few,” said Swartz. “…I feel like they think that they’re above the law, and they’re the ones that are supposed to be protecting all of us. I just want justice for my mom.”
Shannon Steward, who is Garner’s daughter-in-law, said the criminal investigation needs to uncover “everything that went on before April 14” and why and how the incident was not exposed earlier, or if any top officials were aware of the alleged excessive force and are denying they were.
Swartz was holding flowers during the news conference, just as her mother was when she was arrested last June. Walmart has said that its employees called police on reports that Garner was shoplifting and had ripped the mask off an employee.
“She loves picking flowers and buying flowers, and this is for her,” Swartz said. “This is for mom.”
Both she and Steward said they and other family members had seen Garner on Mother’s Day, and they said she remains scared and traumatized.
“Instead of embracing us because we are her loved ones, she pushes us away instead of reaching over and touching us to let us know she cares,” Swartz said. “She just pulls away. She’s just scared.”
Steward said the family had not seen Garner smile since the incident and that it “truly changed the progression of how she was going” with her disease.
“We’re hoping if we can increase our visits, maybe we can bring back the recognition of us as her family,” Steward said. “We just don’t know. We have to keep taking it one day at a time.”