LOVELAND, Colo. — The family and attorney for Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia who was violently arrested by Loveland police in 2020, said a years-old letter from Garner — where she wrote, "Look out the front window. Don't dwell on what's in the rear view mirror" — solidified their decision that a settlement with the City of Loveland was the best option for them.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the City of Loveland announced it was finalizing a settlement with Garner for $3 million.
Garner's attorney, Sarah Schielke, held a press conference Wednesday morning with members of Garner's family to explain the settlement and next steps.
"She was 73. She had dementia. She was one of the most vulnerable members of our community. And she was carrying wildflowers," Schielke explained of Garner's arrest.
On June 26, 2020, police were called out to a report of shoplifting at a Loveland Walmart, and while arresting Garner, the officers broke her arm and dislocated her shoulder. In April, the department announced the involved officers — Officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali — were no longer with the department, but the police chief has not said if they resigned or were fired.
Garner had forgotten to pay for $13.88-worth of items from the Walmart.
"Thirteen dollars and 88 cents is the business interest that Loveland believed was worth inflicting this atrocity," Schielke said. "Today, they pay Ms. Garner $3 million. The amount of this settlement is likely record-breaking for a civil rights case that doesn't involve death or permanent disfigurement. Not only does its amount send a powerful message, but the speed in which it was obtained does as well — just four months since we filed the lawsuit."
She acknowledged that some members of the public may wonder why the family decided to settle with the City of Loveland. The answer to that was tucked in a letter that Garner's family recently discovered from several years ago, when dementia first started affecting her, Schielke said.
The letter, in part, reads, "All I've wanted all my life was someone to love, adore and care about me. I find the world scary now, being alone. So value love as a treasured gift that is all that matters. I want the best and fullest lives possible for my children and grandchildren. I feel the world is getting crueler. Don't make it any rougher for yourselves by living in the past. Look out the front window. Don't dwell on what's in the rear view mirror."
Schielke said this proved that Garner, who could not express what she wanted to do regarding the settlement, wanted closure and peace for her loved ones.
Garner's daughter-in-law Shannon Steward added that they felt that the letter confirmed they were working in her best interests moving forward.
Garner is in declining health and the trauma of the violent arrest only accelerated her decline, Schielke said.
The settlement allows her family to avoid the toll of prolonged litigation, and was obtained fast enough to get Garner the best around-the-clock care possible, Schielke said.
On behalf of the family, Steward also called upon changes that need to come from the Loveland Police Department.
"This incident shocked us by exposing us to the lowest form of human behavior and decency, particularity by people that should be respected, people that should know how to show respect," she said. "Conversely, this family was also overwhelmed by the support and love of people in the City of Loveland as well as around the world. It was overwhelming and got us through some of the darkest times and for that, we say thank you."
Steward said the family is calling for more reform at the police department and city council.
While the settlement brings an amount of justice to Garner's family, it is not full, Schielke said. That will come when every person involved in the incident, or who fostered a culture that made the incident possible, is held accountable.
That means a change in leadership, she said, repeating her previous statements that the leaders in the department have created an environment of officers that do not respect or care for those they're supposed to keep safe.
She noted that on Tuesday night, a 19-year-old man with intellectual disabilities died after he was shot by Loveland police in mid-August.
"The only way it's going to stop is to change the culture. The only way to change its culture is to replace the leadership," Schielke said.
She again called for the Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer, Sgt. Philip Metzler and Loveland City Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Don Overcash to resign.
"These men are the seeds that planted the rotten tree that is the Loveland Police Department." Schielke said. "They are the good ole boys, they are the old guard, and in order for this community to actually heal, in order for these incidents to stop happening, they have to go."
She quoted Chief Ticer from a press release sent out around 2 a.m. Wednesday — "There is no excuse... for what happened to Ms. Garner. While these actions won’t change what Ms. Garner experienced, they will serve to improve this police department and hopefully restore faith that the LPD exists to serve those who live in and visit Loveland” — and said, in response, that she is sick of being the only person holding bad police work accountable in his department.
She said if Chief Ticer resigns or is fired within 30 days, she will donate $50,000 of her own money to any dementia or Alzheimer's charity of Ticer's choice.
"That's justice to this community," she said. "That's the change they deserve. It's the change they've been demanding. And it's the closure and peace you (Ticer) personally owe them."
Tom Hacker, a spokesperson for the Loveland Police Department, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Ticer will not be resigning.
"He has said his responsibility is to make sure the issues in connection with Karen Garner's arrest are handled professionally and transparently," Hacker said in an email.
Garner's daughter Allisa Swartz said her mother has good days and bad days.
"It's basically — you're losing them twice," she said. "So you lose them through the dementia and then we're going to lose her again, which hurts."
She said changes need to come to the Loveland Police Department and she hopes the $3 million settlement shows how serious they are about the demand.
"This is justice for my mom," Swartz said.
A probate court will need to approve the settlement first and a conservator will be appointed, which will take a couple months. The family will receive the check about two weeks after that is finished, Schielke explained.