Law Enforcement

Why Loveland Is Paying $3 Million Over Brutal Dementia Patient Arrest on Video

A screen capture from body-worn camera video of Karen Garner's June 2020 arrest.
A screen capture from body-worn camera video of Karen Garner's June 2020 arrest. City of Loveland via YouTube
In April, the City of Loveland and three members of the Loveland Police Department were sued over the rough arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old suffering from dementia who's only five feet tall and weighs eighty pounds. The crime for which she was busted in an incident that caused a slew of injuries, including a broken shoulder? Allegedly leaving a Loveland Walmart without paying for a Pepsi, a candy bar, a T-shirt and some Shout Wipe refills cumulatively valued at $13.88.

The next month, two of the three defendants in the suit — officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali — were criminally charged for the episode, which was captured on body-worn camera video. But yesterday, September 7, only hours after the attorney for Garner and her family released a new clip focusing on the third defendant, Sergeant Philip Metzler, along with a raft of other damning documentation, Loveland caved, announcing its intention to settle the matter for $3 million.

The timing suggests that Loveland officials realized that dragging out the matter would only prolong their misery, as well as the blitz of negative publicity that's resulted.

The first complaint, superseded by an amended version, was filed on April 14 in U.S. District Court by Sarah Schielke of Loveland-based The Life & Liberty Law Firm. It divulges that Garner "suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to communicate and understand." Her condition is emphasized in connection with the reason she originally came to the LPD's attention on June 26, 2020; forgetfulness is a common symptom for those with Garner's malady.

After the aforementioned items were confiscated by a Walmart employee, Garner began walking to her nearby home — but she was intercepted by Officer Hopp as she was picking wildflowers in a field alongside Mountain Lion Road. When she didn't immediately comply with Hopp's instructions to stop, for reasons the suit ascribes to her dementia, the officer "leapt out and physically grabbed Ms. Garner’s left arm, and violently twisted it behind her back," the lawsuit contends. "Then he threw her eighty-pound body to the ground and climbed on top of her, still inflicting upon her the painful rear wristlock maneuver he was employing to put her in handcuffs."

Here's a subtitled video collage showing Garner's arrest, during which her shoulder was fractured and dislocated and her wrist was sprained:
After the suit and accompanying video were made public, authorities in Loveland engaged in assorted mea culpas and ass-covering. On April 15, the 8th Judicial District DA's office put out a release stressing that its members were unaware of the Garner case because it had been handled by the "previous administration," and shared paperwork showing that all charges against Garner had been dismissed as proof. Then, on April 19, the City of Loveland announced that "a full investigation of the event and all parties involved will be conducted by an independent, third party to determine whether officers were within policy, and if not within policy, to implement corrective actions."

Although the inquiry led to the charges against Hopp and Jalali, no such accusations were pressed against Metzler. But yesterday at 10:29 a.m., Schielke announced the publication of new footage under the title "Karen Garner Case: Sgt. Metzler Gaslighting Concerned Citizen — The Video He Tried to Hide."

The YouTube intro points out that "Sergeant Philip Metzler was the direct supervising officer to Officers Hopp and Jalali during this event. He helped them to hog-tie Karen and shove her in the back of Jalali’s patrol vehicle. He saw Karen’s blood all over Jalali and confirmed that the blood was Karen’s, not Jalali’s, and he then directed them to take Karen to jail rather than medical treatment, in violation of LPD policy regarding both use of force and provision of medical care to anyone with visible injury. He made jokes about how dirty they had gotten in the scuffle with Karen, and he laughed at Jalali’s comment that she was 'a little bloody, a little muddy, that’s how it works.'"

Next, the account continues, Metzler "pointed at the concerned citizen who had pulled over to make a complaint about what he had seen the officers do to Karen. Metzler said to Hopp: 'And this is…who?' Hopp, laughing, responded, 'He probably wants to talk to you.' Metzler then walked over to the citizen to engage him. After four minutes, the citizen appeared to angrily drive away. From Hopp and Jalali’s videos, Metzler could be heard appearing to intimidate that citizen and accuse him of 'interfering,' sometimes pointing a finger into his face. Most of what Metzler said to the citizen was inaudible on Hopp and Jalali’s body camera videos. But one thing that Hopp and Jalali said to one another was quite audible indeed: 'Good ol’ Metzler,' they said, while watching him do it."

The Metzler video Schielke was originally sent upon her request pertained to "an incident a week prior roughly around the same time of day." She accuses Metzler of going into the LPD's evidence system and hiding the video of him "gaslighting the concerned citizen. ... Cops cannot delete videos, but they can assign them to nonexistent cases. That's what Metzler did. He substituted in an innocuous video from someone else's case and chucked this video into evidence no-man's-land."


See the video below:
Schielke also sent out a chronology of the video, a pair of damning audit logs, and a report from the Loveland Police Department's so-called Blue Team, which included Metzler; the group determined that the actions of Hopp and Jalali conformed to policy.

Upon receiving this cache, Westword reached out to a Loveland spokesperson for comment but didn't receive a response. Late in the afternoon, however, reps issued a press release labeled, "City of Loveland, Karen Garner Nearing Settlement for June 2020 Arrest." The item confirms the $3 million price tag prior to the following quote from Loveland City Manager Steve Adams: "The settlement with Karen Garner will help bring some closure to an unfortunate event in our community but does not upend the work we have left to do. We extend a deep and heartfelt apology to Karen Garner and her family for what they have endured as a result of this arrest. We know we did not act in a manner that upholds the values, integrity, and policies of the City and police department, and we are taking the necessary steps to make sure these actions are never repeated."

Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer added: "There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner. We have agreed on steps we need to take to begin building back trust. 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."

Hopp and Jalali still face criminal charges, but the Loveland release notes: "Both parties have agreed that settlement without the admission of liability prevents further litigation and is in the best interest of all involved." Meanwhile, the LPD has instituted "an updated and improved use-of-force review process that will include faster response times and review by an assistant city attorney as well as City of Loveland Human Resources personnel" and plans to "launch LPD Listens tours, an opportunity for city residents to share and engage with Loveland Police Department command staff," collaborate with Loveland City Council "on ways to expand and enhance LPD’s mental health co-responder program with SummitStone Health Partners" and form a "sixteen-member Ad Hoc Community Trust Commission." A virtual town hall/listening session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, September 16.

The release doesn't address Metzler's status with the Loveland Police Department.

Click to read the amended version of Karen Garner v. City of Loveland, et al., the original motion to dismiss Garner's charges, the Loveland Police Department Blue Team report, the chronology of the Philip Metzler video, the Austin Hopp audit log, and the Metzler video audit log.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts