Recorded on body cam video fracturing the arm of an elderly woman suffering from dementia, three Colorado police officers were recently named in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the department and the city of Loveland.
On June 26, 2020, Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman who suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate and understand others’ communications, was recorded on surveillance video leaving a Walmart without paying for several items. Walmart employees stopped Garner and recovered less than $14 worth of items that she reportedly attempted to pay for but was refused.
After a Walmart employee called the police and reported which direction Garner was walking toward, Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp placed her in handcuffs as she attempted to walk home. According to Hopp’s body cam footage, Garner was leaning against the hood of a patrol car when he abruptly dislocated her shoulder, fractured her humerus, and sprained her wrist. At five feet tall and weighing 80lbs, Garner crumpled to the ground in pain after suffering the injuries to her arm.
Later in the video, Sergeant Phil Metzler asked Officer Daria Jalali, who assisted Hopp in the arrest, about the mud and blood on her uniform. Officer Jalali confirmed that the blood belonged to Garner after stating, “A little bloody, a little muddy; that’s how it works.”
Garner was reportedly held in police custody for several hours while crying out in pain before a deputy at the Larimer County Jail in Fort Collins requested medical attention for her. The charges against Garner were later dropped by the district attorney’s office.
“Ms. Garner’s experience with Loveland Police is not about bad apples,” said Garner’s attorney, Sarah Schielke. “It is about culture. And the culture in Loveland is one of lack of care, lack of humility. Loveland Police officers have enrobed themselves with a completely unaccountable authoritarian superiority. They demand total obedience and submission from everyone – including the disabled elderly – and if you don’t immediately capitulate, they will make you pay for it.
“This is not community policing. This is community terrorism. Ms. Garner is one of the most vulnerable members of our community – a mother, a grandmother, a tiny, frail human with cognitive disabilities – and they treated her like an animal. And if this is what they’re doing to a terrified elderly lady with dementia, what do you think they’re doing to everyone else?”
Garner recently filed a federal lawsuit accusing the city and police officers of violating her constitutional protections against excessive force, to have due process, and also violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to her suit, Garner now suffers from fear, trauma, and anxiety when leaving her home in addition to her physical injuries and pre-existing mental conditions.