Law Enforcement

"Ransom" Put on Loveland Police Chief Over Brutal Arrest

A screen capture from body-worn camera video of Karen Garner's 2020 arrest and a portrait of Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer.
A screen capture from body-worn camera video of Karen Garner's 2020 arrest and a portrait of Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer. City of Loveland via YouTube/
On September 7, the City of Loveland agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit over the bone-breaking 2020 arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old with dementia. But at a September 8 press conference, Sarah Schielke of Loveland-based The Life & Liberty Law Firm, who represents Garner and her family, made it clear that she was willing to give up some of the money she'll earn for helping to secure this windfall if that means an exit for Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer.

"I actually put a ransom on his job," Schielke says. "I pledged that if Chief Ticer resigns or is fired in the next thirty days, I will donate $50,000 of my own money to any dementia-based charity of Ticer's choosing."

There's no question that the heat is on Ticer. The fatal August 16 police shooting of nineteen-year-old Alex Domina, who was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time, is only the latest controversial event to take place on his watch. But the Garner matter has been by far the most expensive to date — and while Ticer has promised policy revisions to prevent such events from happening in the future, Schielke argues that "all of that stuff is meaningless lip service until there are personnel changes in supervisory positions: bottom line, full stop."

She emphasized this point a few hours before Loveland made the settlement announcement by releasing a video of Sergeant Philip Metzler — a defendant in the lawsuit along with responding officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali, and the only one who hasn't been criminally charged in relation to the incident, which happened after Garner failed to pay for $13.88 worth of items from a local Walmart. The clip shows Metzler essentially bullying a witness; Schielke accuses the sergeant of trying to hide the video in "evidence no-man's-land" to prevent it from landing in her hands. She eventually got hold of the footage, however, and in the introduction to its page on YouTube, she writes in all caps: "REMEMBER — PHILIP METZLER IS STILL EMPLOYED AS A SERGEANT AT THE LOVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT."

Schielke was just as blunt at the September 8 press conference, where she was accompanied by members of Garner's family.
Discussions regarding a potential settlement went on for a couple of months, and "personnel changes were not on the table during negotiations," Schielke reveals, adding, "I thought it was important that the Metzler stuff be released to the public before the last chapter on the lawsuit was announced, since it's at the core, in many ways, of explaining how the [$3 million] number got so high. This is not a rogue bad apple. This is a big problem at a big police department."

Metzler "should have been charged and fired," she says. "Think about that video of him and what he does to threaten a citizen who courageously stopped and tried to protect a vulnerable member of our community from police violence — the way Metzler treats him, the tone he takes, the intimidation, the telling him he doesn't know what he saw when Metzler wasn't even there to see it. That video was viewed by many other supervisors within Loveland when I filed the lawsuit back in April. There are audit logs that show whenever anyone has seen a video, and it was seen by a sergeant, a lieutenant and an assistant chief, yet they didn't fire him, which is insane. I can't wrap my brain around what kind of person becomes a police officer and sees a citizen who had the courage to say they saw excessive force and does nothing about it. There is so much to unpack about that attitude, and who knows what other things he's done. He's a supervisor — he trains subordinates — but in that video, Hopp and Jalali laugh and say, 'Good ol' Metzler.' Which means it's a repeat performance."

The timing of Loveland's settlement announcement prevented the Metzler material from getting the media attention it might have otherwise received, but Schielke thinks it will come to the fore again. "Those are going to be exhibits at Hopp's criminal trial," she predicts. "His defense is going to have to be that he didn't assault anybody, because he was doing exactly what he was trained to do at the Loveland Police Department — exactly what they expected."

There was another reason for unveiling the Metzler video when she did. "To the extent that the settlement announcement was going to make it seem like everything was tied up with a bow, I wanted to make sure that wasn't the impression given," Schielke explains. "There's still a lot of cleanup they need to do, and they seem pretty intent on not doing it."

Schielke seems pretty intent on not letting them avoid the ongoing issues, however, and her "ransom" pledge makes it clear she will keep speaking out about problems. "This is close to me, because I live and work in the Loveland and Fort Collins area," she says. "So I'm not interested in following the old-guard playbook of 'You guys just pay some money and keep up business as usual.' I want this to be a safer place for my kids to live. I want to feel safe walking the dog, and I don't want to worry about my mother or grandmother needing to be protected from police."

She concludes: "There's no accountability in the Loveland Police Department...and that means there needs to be an ouster of higher-ups who protect bad police."

Including a certain chief.
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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