Law Enforcement

Video: Loveland Cops' Rough Bust of Elderly Woman With Dementia

Body camera footage of Karen Garner being taken into custody and a photo of her injured arm.
Body camera footage of Karen Garner being taken into custody and a photo of her injured arm. The Life & Liberty Law Office
It's been a tough week for Loveland. First came the controversy over a photo of city council member Don Overcash and other white officials wearing Afro wigs while costumed as members of a monkey band. And now, the city and three members of the Loveland Police Department are being sued over the extremely aggressive, injury-inducing arrest last year of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old suffering from dementia who's only five feet tall and weighs eighty pounds.

Accompanying the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court by Loveland-based The Life & Liberty Law Firm on April 14, is surveillance and body-camera footage from the Garner bust. The officers named as defendants are Austin Hopp, Daria Jalali and Philip Metzler.

The suit notes 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, she allegedly left a Loveland Walmart without ponying up for a Pepsi, a candy bar, a T-shirt and some Shout Wipe refills cumulatively valued at $13.88. "Forgetting to pay for items at a store is one of the most common and well-known symptoms witnessed in elderly persons suffering from dementia," the document states.

Garner was confronted by an employee as she left the store, then escorted back inside, where the items were confiscated. At that point, Garner tried handing the staffer a credit card, but her offer was rejected — so she exited the store and began walking to her nearby home. En route, she was intercepted by Officer Hopp in a field alongside Mountain Lion Road; she was picking wildflowers, the suit says.

When Garner didn't immediately comply with instructions to stop, for reasons the complaint ascribes to her condition, Hopp is quoted as saying, "I don’t think you want to play it this way. Ma’am, police, stop," before asking, "Do you need to be arrested right now?" Shortly thereafter, the suit states, Hopp "leapt out and physically grabbed Ms. Garner’s left arm, and violently twisted it behind her back. Then he threw her 80-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."

"I'm going home! I'm going home!" Garner exclaimed, "No, no, no" as he leaned into her back with his knees. The suit accuses Officer Jalali, who subsequently arrived at the scene, of also using excessive force, while Metzler is blamed for essentially shrugging off the complaint of a citizen who saw what was going on and failing to offer proper care to Garner, whose shoulder was fractured and dislocated in the incident; she also suffered a sprained wrist.

Here's a compendium of the video showing Garner's arrest.

Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer has not responded to Westword's request for a comment. But he told CBS4 that "community members are concerned about this. We are concerned about this, too. That is why we are taking swift actions. We placed those officers on leave status. I have to look at that as something very serious."

Ticer added: "We will have an independent investigation. We will have the lawsuit to work through. And, to be frank with you, we were not aware of the serious bodily injury" until the suit was filed.

Continue to read Karen Garner v. City of Loveland, et al.
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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