DENVER – A sergeant, lieutenant and the assistance chief of police at the Loveland Police Department all signed off on the force used against an elderly woman with dementia last year which led to criminal charges against the two officers involved, according to records released by the woman’s attorney Tuesday.
Attorney Sarah Schielke released the Blue Team report records the Loveland Police Department uses to report use-of-force incidents internally, which show how higher-ups within the department approved of the force Officer Austin Hopp used against 73-year-old Karen Garner on June 26, 2020.
Hopp was charged with second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury, attempting to influence a public servant and first-degree official misconduct this past May after Schielke publicly released the body camera videos of Garner’s arrest. Another officer, Daria Jalali, was also charged with failure to report use of force by a peace officer, failure to intervene, and first-degree misconduct.
The two officers and a community service officer were all relieved of their duties with the department, though Police Chief Robert Ticer has not said whether they were fired or resigned.
Police were called out to a report of shoplifting at a Loveland Walmart, and while arresting Garner last year, the officers broke Garner’s arm and dislocated her shoulder in the process.
An investigation by the 8th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) found Hopp made “substantial omissions” when he was interviewed about the incident “in an attempt to thwart the investigation of his conduct.” An affidavit for his arrest said he was misleading in his reports to his supervisors, including the narrative he gave in his Blue Team report.
The report, which was obtained by Schielke and which she released Tuesday, shows that Hopp wrote in the report that Garner “fought against officers continuously and several controlling holds had to be used.”
“The suspect sustained minor lacerations to her wrists from the handcuffs and a small laceration to her chin,” the report goes on to say. “…The suspect was asked several times if she wanted medical attention and she either would not answer or start talking about something else and never asked for medical attention. Once at the LCJ the suspect complained of shoulder pain and the jail nurse determined she had a possible shoulder injury. It’s unknown when the shoulder injury was caused due to the length of her struggle against officers as well as her continuously try [sic] to escape her restraints in booking.”
Hopp wrote “mentally unstable” in a section where the form asks for the “employee assessment of citizen condition during incident” and says Garner was using “defensive resistance” against the officers.
Schielke said Hopp wrote his report on July 4. Sgt. Phil Metzler, the supervisor on scene during Garner’s arrest, did not upload his body camera video until July 1, according to Schielke, and changed the case number associated with his video several times over the next two weeks before it was included in discovery evidence provided to the district attorney’s office in a supplemental report.
Schielke claims Metzler was purposefully giving his video the wrong case number or uploading video from another incident to the Blue Team report for Garner’s arrest. She says Hopp wrote and uploaded his narrative of the incident on Aug. 7, which the Blue Team report confirms.
Just after midnight, Metzler watched the full body camera video from Hopp’s arrest of Garner and wrote his review of the report.
He said he had reviewed “all associated reports, photos and body worn camera video” in the case and found “that this arrest and subsequent use of force was within policy and the minor force that was used was reasonable and appropriate for the situation.”
“The Officers involved were not injured and the suspect received minor scrapes from being taken to the ground and cuffed,” Metzler continued. “…I have attached Officer Hopp’s report and photos of the suspect were submitted with the Blue Team. This Blue Team is approved.”
Metzler sent the review off to Lt. Robert Shaffer for review. On Aug. 10, Shaffer wrote that he concurred with Metzler’s assessments and findings but asked “why there isn’t BWC footage of the arrest and struggle.”
“Otherwise, there is no further action or investigation necessary,” Shaffer wrote, and passed the review onto Assistance Chief Ray Butler.
Thirty-five minutes later, Butler approved the Blue Team report: “I have reviewed the BWC, the report and photographs. The use of force was necessary, reasonable and within policy,” he wrote.
Records provided by Schielke show Butler watched Hopp’s body camera video again about an hour later. Prosecutors filed the motion to dismiss the case against Garner 11 days later, and a sergeant closed the Blue Team report on Sept. 9.
Records also show several Loveland Police employees then accessed the video again on April 15 and 16 of this year on the day after Schielke filed the federal excessive force lawsuit on behalf of Garner over the incident and Garner’s injuries, which is still pending.
Schielke again called Tuesday for Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer to resign or be fired. All of the people who signed off on Hopp’s Blue Team report are still employed by the department.
“He presided over all of this, which we see incudes not just the criminally charged Hopp’s behavior, but all of Hopp’s supervisors up the chain of command seeing the recorded assault and approving of it,” Schielke said in a statement.
Ticer said in a news conference after the CIRT report was issued that an assistant city attorney would review all use of force cases moving forward to be sure officers are following policy and also maintained that he did not learn about the Garner incident until the video of her arrest was posted to the department’s Facebook page on April 14. He said the charges for the two officers amounted to accountability.
Metzler was placed on administrative duty but Ticer did not say for how long. Garner’s family members said earlier this summer they believed Metzler should face further consequences and reiterated that they believed Ticer should resign.
Schielke also released new body camera of Metzler’s from his encounter with a citizen about filing a complaint about the arrest, in which he says, “They didn’t do anything wrong.”
The Loveland Police Department did not immediately respond to multiple questions regarding the report and the officers associated with it on Tuesday morning.
This is a developing news story and will be updated.