Karen Garner was left with fractured bones, mistrust, fear, and anxiety following the violent police encounter.
Trigger Warning: This story contains graphic details of police brutality that readers may find disturbing.
The Loveland Police Department has come under fire after a federal lawsuit alleged that a 73-year-old elderly woman was left with fractured bones, bruises, and trauma as a result of a violent arrest. Karen Garner, a grandmother of nine, was picking wildflowers on the side of the road in Loveland, Colorado, on June 26, 2020, when the incident took place. Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp was driving behind the woman with his overhead lights on after she had been accused of shoplifting from a nearby Walmart store. In the camera footage published by Garner's attorney, it can be seen that the elderly woman doesn't seem to notice the siren. Despite this, the cop jumps out of his patrol car, commands her to stop, before beginning an encounter that leads to the woman being injured.
He was impatient and didn't control his reflex anger. Guys like that don't belong on the force. #lovelandpolice— @Silent Cops Are Complicit Cops (@TrumpHotelMatt1) April 17, 2021
Per a federal civil rights lawsuit filed on Garner's behalf against the three officers involved in the arrest and the city of Loveland, the woman has dementia and sensory aphasia, which is an inability to understand spoken and written speech. When Hopp asked why she did not stop even after he activated his light and siren, Garner can be seen giving him a blank expression and saying something unintelligible. As she starts moving away, Hopp says, "No, no, no," before grabbing the 80-pound woman and throwing her onto the grass He twists her arms behind her back even as Garner holds onto the wildflower she had picked. Soon a second cop, Daria Jalali, arrives at the scene and helps Hopp in the arrests.
I’m so tired of the “one bad apple” trope. It’s actually “one bad apple SPOILS THE WHOLE BARREL” ffs— ZAN (@Emo_Sup_Badger) April 17, 2021
The bodycam footage shows Hopp pushing her left arm "painfully upward," despite Garner's evident distress. They continued to repeatedly throw her on the ground and proceed to use a controversial restraint method i.e. hog-tie to keep her put on the side of the road. After her restricting her feet, Hopp, Jalali, and on-scene supervisor, Sgt. Philip Metzler then left her into the back of the police vehicle even as Garner continues cries, "I'm going home." The lawsuit alleged that the woman was left with a fractured humerus bone, a dislocated shoulder, and a sprained wrist. Despite her injuries and obvious bruises, she was only taken to a medical facility several hours after the arrest.
The lawsuit further claimed that Garner is now suffering from anxiety, mistrust, and fear whenever she goes out in public, reports The Hill. "What little freedom and happiness Ms. Garner enjoyed in her life as an elderly adult with declining mental health was, on June 26, 2020, recklessly and deliberately obliterated by the Loveland Police Department," read the lawsuit. On the day of the incident, Garner managed to slip out of her house despite her kids doing their best to keep an eye on her. She entered a Walmart and ended up wandering out of the store without paying for -a T-shirt, candy bar, Pepsi, and some stain-removing wipes,- items that were worth less than $14.
She was stopped by Walmart employees who took the items back and even though she attempted to pay, they refused and called the police, per the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Walmart Casey Staheli told VICE, "We stopped the customer after noticing her attempt to take merchandise from the store without paying for it. To protect the safety of our people, the police were called only after Ms. Garner became physical with an associate." The arrest took place following this and at one point a concerned citizen even stopped to ask the officers, "Do you have to use that much aggression?"
Garner was charged with theft of less than $50 for obstructing a peace officer and for resisting arrest, per the Loveland Reporter-Herald. In August the Larimer County District Attorney agreed to dismiss the case against her. The Loveland Police Department released a statement assuring that it would investigate the arrest. Furthermore, they added that Hopp had been placed on administrative leave and that Jalali and Metzler were reassigned to administrative duties. With the suit, Garner's family is hoping that there some significant changes made in leadership, personnel, and policy at the Loveland Police Department so that that same thing doesn't happen to anyone else. "This is not a ‘single bad apple’ type of scenario," said Garner's attorney Sarah Schielke.
"This is a systemic, cultural, deeply ingrained, coming-down-from-leadership type of attitude, where this is not community policing—it’s community terrorism, practically," added Schielke. "If somebody’s dumb enough, in their mind, to not capitulate, they’re going to pay for it. Even if you’re an elderly disabled lady." Garner is now suing for unspecified damages as well as alleging that her constitutional right against excessive force was violated, in addition to the Americans with Disabilities Act.