FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Two former police officers are now charged in the rough arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old Colorado woman with dementia. The officers were later seen on video talking about her arrest, laughing and joking at times.
Larimer County District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin charged former officer Austin Hopp with assault in the 2nd Degree - At Risk, attempting to influence a public servant and official misconduct. McLaughlin also charged Daria Jalali with misdemeanors failure to report use of force by a peace officer, failure to intervene and first-degree official misconduct.
"Ensuring public trust in law enforcement and in our criminal justice system is vital to our community’s safety and our fundamental belief in fairness," McLaughlin said.
"I fully support these charges," Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer said in a separate news conference. "These two individuals are no longer in any way associated with our department. Their actions and attitudes are in direct contrast to the culture we strive to achieve here at the Loveland Police Department."
Ticer said he has also requested an independent, third-party investigation and assessment overseen by the city’s human resources department.
Hopp arrested Garner in June 2020 after she left a store without paying for about $14 worth of items. His body camera footage shows him catching up to her as she walked through a field along a road. Garner shrugged and turned away from him and he quickly grabbed her arm and pushed her 80-pound body to the ground.
A federal lawsuit filed on Garner’s behalf, which included images from the body camera footage, claims Hopp dislocated her shoulder by shoving her handcuffed left arm forward onto the hood of his patrol car and that she was denied medical treatment for about six hours.
Hopp, Jalali and Community Services Officer Tyler Blackett resigned from the department in April.
Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer noted that last year’s treatment of Garner in the city about 50 miles north of Denver, revealed by the filing of a federal lawsuit in April, had led to an outpouring of concern and anger in the community, the country and around the world and apologized.
"Our goal at the Loveland Police Department has always been to make our community proud. We failed and we are very sorry for that," he said.
In response to the lawsuit, the department announced it was putting Hopp, the arresting officer, on leave. Jalali, who arrived to help Hopp shortly after Garner was handcuffed, and Blackett, who helped transport Garner to the police station, were put on leave later, as was a supervisory sergeant who stopped by the arrest scene.
Hopp, Jalali and Blackett were also captured on surveillance video with enhanced audio released by the lawyer representing Garner and her family this week that shows them watching Hopp’s body camera footage and talking about the arrest as Garner was handcuffed in a holding cell a few feet away. At one point, Hopp refers to hearing a "pop" sound as he recounts repeatedly pushing Garner, suggesting that he was aware that he had injured her.
Sarah Schielke, the lawyer representing Garner and her family, said the department has a toxic culture that goes beyond the three officers who resigned and she thinks Ticer should have also stepped down to take responsibility for it.
"It’s this attitude of arrogance and entitlement, and frivolity taken in the use of force on its citizens and complete disregard for the people they’re policing," she said.
She also faulted the department for not firing the supervisory sergeant and another sergeant who approved of Hopp’s use of force report.
Ticer said he did not know of Garner’s serious injuries until the lawsuit, but he declined to say how many people in his chain of command knew about her injuries, saying that would be looked at by a city investigation into whether police policies were followed in the arrest. That probe will not start until after an investigation to determine whether any criminal charges are warranted that is being conducted by police in nearby Fort Collins. They are part of a team of area law enforcement agencies that investigates other departments’ uses of force resulting in serious injuries in coordination with the district attorney.
Ticer said he has taken steps toward change in the wake of the incident. Officers are undergoing Alzheimer’s awareness, crisis intervention and de-escalation training. An assistant city attorney will also review all use-of-force cases moving forward.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.