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3 Loveland officers involved in Karen Garner arrest are no longer with the department

Karen Garner
Posted at 11:22 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 21:07:07-04

LOVELAND, Colo. — Three Loveland police officers involved in the arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia, are no longer employed by the police department, police officials announced on Friday.

Officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali, and Tyler Blackett, a community service officer, are out of the police department.

Police Chief Robert Ticer did not say whether the officers were fired or if they resigned, though Ticer did say, "I was involved in that process" regarding the officers' departure.

Police Sgt. Phillip Metzler, a supervisor involved in the incident, remains on administrative leave. Sgt. Antolina Hill, a supervisor at the jail where Garner was booked, remains on duty.

"Our goal at the Loveland Police Department has always been to make our community proud," Ticer said. "We failed, and we are very sorry for that."

Ticer said the officer's actions were not reflective of the Loveland Police Department.

The Loveland Police Department is comprised of men and women taking calls for service ... serving with integrity, being trustworthy," Ticer said. "What you saw in the video is not the Loveland Police Department."

The video released by Garner’s attorney earlier this month and video released Monday allege the officers used excessive force on Garner in taking to the ground, injuring her arm and shoulder and getting her into the patrol car.

Sarah Schielke, the Garner family's attorney, has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Loveland and five officers involved in either Garner’s arrest or who were at the jail while she was still in custody. The lawsuit alleges the officers used excessive force in arresting her and also failed to provide proper medical care for her injuries or to intervene when the alleged excessive force was being used.

Garner’s family and attorney were not moved by Friday’s announcement, they said in statements.

“Today we listened to Chief Ticer give a speech singularly endeavoring to protect only himself and the reputation of the LPD. He repeatedly dodged questions regarding our family. He made no reference to Karen personally,” the family said in a statement. “And just like on June 26, 2020, the inhumane treatment of our mother was ignored and his continued support of the department was the focus. He said that our mother’s case has “hurt him personally.” It is clear that the only thing that has “hurt him personally” has been the attention this case has brought to his department.”

Sarah Schielke, the attorney for Garner and her family, said it was “long overdue” that the three officers become unemployed.

“However Sergeant Metzler, their supervisor directly involved in this torturous event, remains a paid Loveland Police Officer. This is unacceptable. Sergeant Antolina Hill, who heard Karen cry out in pain from the cell and who also personally read Hopp’s use of force report and notarized it, remains on duty. This family deserves swift justice,” Schielke said in a statement.

She also asked that the independent investigation be done by an agency outside of Larimer County instead of being led by Fort Collins police, and blamed Chief Ticer and other Loveland city leadership for not acting further.

“Ticer said ‘this isn’t the Loveland Police Department’ several times during his speech. He is wrong. This is the Loveland Police Department. And it is his Loveland Police Department. He is responsible for what happens in it. And incredibly, despite presiding over the hiring, training and culture that led to this atrocity against Karen Garner, he and the City of Loveland believe he ought to still continue running it,” Schielke said.

“His decision to not resign, and the City of Loveland’s City Manager (Steve Adams) decision to not remove him from that position proves that LPD’s leadership and toxic culture problems are just as bad as we suspected when we saw the very first video, if not worse,” she added. “And they go all the way through Ticer, to the very top. Because while the world looks on, aghast, and waiting - the City leaves the old guard in place. And it does nothing.”

Garner was arrested close to her home after Walmart employees called Loveland police to report she had shoplifted around $14 in items from the store and had taken a mask off an employee’s face.

New footage released this week showed the officers laughing about the arrest when watching body camera video and fist-bumping each other at the jail where Garner was booked.

The video from inside the booking area shows Hopp and Jalali, who arrested Garner last June and allegedly dislocated her shoulder and broke her arm during the arrest, according to the lawsuit, watching back the body camera video, laughing, and making comments about Garner’s arrest.

According to her attorney, Garner was handcuffed and sitting on a bench in a cell just feet away.

Schielke said the audio accompanying the booking room video was enhanced by a sound engineer hired by Garner’s family.

The two officers, after bumping fists, discuss whether or not they believe the arrest “went well,” to which Hopp says, “I think we crushed it.”

“Did you hear the pop?” Hopp asks Jalali, then describing the scene. “…I was pushing, pushing, pushing. I hear ‘pop.’ I was like, ‘Oh no. That’s going to turn into something.’”

Later in the video, Hopp, Dalali and a person identified by the attorney as Blackett watch the body camera video together, Hopp asks if they “hear the pop” in Garner’s shoulder, and the video shows Garner is capable of hearing the officers from inside her cell.

“I hate this,” Jalali says, while one of the other officers says, “This is great … I love it,” according to the video.

Schielke called the actions by officers in the videos “utterly disgusting.”

“These videos cannot be unseen or unheard,” she said in a statement. “…If I didn’t release this, the Loveland Police’s toxic culture of arrogance and entitlement, along with their horrific abuse of the vulnerable and powerless, would carry on, business as usual.”