The Loveland police officers who violently arrested a 73-year-old woman with dementia last year laughed about the incident afterward and congratulated themselves about the arrest, video released Monday by the woman’s lawyer shows.
The aggressive arrest not only put Karen Garner in a hospital, but also drastically worsened her dementia symptoms, her family said in an interview Monday, speaking publicly for the first time. Garner barely communicates now. Her family placed her in an assisted living facility in August because they no longer believed she would be safe living alone.
“She hasn’t come back the way she was before,” her daughter-in-law Shannon Steward told The Denver Post. “It was too much.”
Video of the Loveland Police Department booking area the day of the incident shows the officers who made the arrest, Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali, re-watching body camera footage and laughing about it while Garner sat handcuffed to a bench in a nearby cell.
The officers fractured Garner’s arm and dislocated her shoulder during the arrest, her family said.
“Ready for the pop?” an officer identified by Garner’s lawyer as Hopp said to other officers while re-watching the footage together.
“What popped?” another officer asked.
“I think it was her shoulder,” Hopp responded.
In the video from the booking area, Hopp also can be heard saying, “I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old on the ground.” After watching the footage of the arrest for several minutes, Jalali starts repeating “I hate this,” to which Hopp responds, “This is great” and “I love this.”
The cavalier manner in which the officers discussed breaking the tiny woman’s arm in the video of the police lobby sickened the family, Steward said.
“To hear that tone in someone’s voice, to get that tone in your head, it just stirs you to more anger,” she said.
“Why did they hurt me?”
Prior to the arrest, the grandmother of nine lived in her own apartment within eyesight of her daughter’s backyard and happily followed a daily routine.
After the arrest, she barely communicates and her anxiety forces her into bouts of pacing and hand-wringing, the family said. Garner has never been able to tell them what happened the day of her arrest. When her family picked her up from the hospital, the family said, she repeated: “Why did they hurt me?”
Garner’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, said the video of the officers laughing about the incident was disgusting. She recommended that the rest of the family not watch it.
“These videos cannot be unseen or unheard,” Schielke said.
Hopp approached Garner on June 26 after Walmart employees called police to report that Garner tried to walk out of the store with $13 worth of merchandise. Store employees made Garner leave the merchandise at the store. Garner’s family said they believe Garner forgot to pay for the items and was confused.
Hopp found Garner walking home on a nearby road and took her to the ground within 30 seconds of contacting her after she refused to stop walking, body camera footage of the interaction shows. He then handcuffed her, forced her against his police cruiser and later used a hobble to restrain her feet.
Garner’s family didn’t know she had been arrested and jailed until a nurse at a hospital called them about 11:30 p.m.
“I just feel like I didn’t protect her,” Alissa Swartz, her daughter, said. “I wasn’t there to keep her safe from the police, who are supposed to protect her.”
“They could’ve walked her home,” Steward said.
“I’m just going home”
The body camera footage, released April 14 after Garner’s family filed a federal lawsuit, has drawn national attention to the case.
The Loveland Police Department placed Hopp on administrative leave and re-assigned Jalali to administrative duties while it investigated the incident. The Eighth Judicial District Attorney announced last week he will investigate whether the officers broke any criminal laws.
But Garner’s family doesn’t understand what is left to investigate. The videos show what happened, Steward and Swartz said. The officers should be fired and charged with a crime, they said.
“There are great police officers out there and there always will be,” Swartz said. “It’s the ones that do not do their job correctly. They want to feel that power.”
The video footage from inside the police station also showed Hopp and Jalali discussing submitting the incident to BlueTeam, the use-of-force reporting system the department uses. Loveland police Chief Bob Ticer previously told the Loveland Reporter-Herald that department officials were not aware that Garner had been injured in the arrest until the lawsuit was filed, though both officers on scene and a responding sergeant acknowledged she was hurt.
Schielke on Monday added two more officers — Tyler Blackett and Antolina Hill — as defendants in the lawsuit, alleging they knew Garner was injured but did not provide her medical care while she was held in the booking cell. The federal lawsuit alleges Garner did not receive medical care for more than six hours after her arrest.
The Loveland Police Department did not respond to a request for comment Monday. The department previously issued a statement saying it shared the community’s concerns about how the arrest was conducted.
The Post requested any disciplinary records tied to Hopp’s employment with the Loveland Police Department. The agency last week said there were two ongoing internal affairs investigations involving Hopp, but declined to release summaries of those probes because they’re not yet completed.
Steward and Swartz said they appreciated the messages of support the national attention to the story has elicited, but the attention also forces the family to relive the incident every time it plays on television news. Every news segment about the case begins with video of Hopp taking Garner to the ground. The family now knows to mute the television until the body camera footage stops.
“Her voice doesn’t leave your head,” Swartz said. “You just hear her saying, ‘I’m just going home, I’m just going home.’”