DENVER – Two former Loveland police officers face charges in relation to their arrest of 73-year-old Karen Garner last year.
The charges for former officers Austin Hopp, 26, and Daria Jalali, 27, come after the 8th Judicial District Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) completed its review of the violent arrest of Garner, who has dementia.
Online court records showed Hopp faces charges of second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury, attempt to influence a public servant, and official misconduct. The first two charges are felonies.
The records showed Jalali faces charges of failure to report use of force by a peace officer, failure to intervene, and first-degree official misconduct. All three counts are misdemeanors.
8th Judicial District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin confirmed the charges in a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The CIRT said earlier this month they planned to finish their independent review, which was led by the Fort Collins Police Services, by the middle of the month. The review was initiated April 19, a week after an attorney for Garner filed a federal lawsuit against the police department and officers claiming they used excessive force in arresting Garner — allegedly breaking her arm and dislocating her shoulder in the process.
District attorney discusses charging decision
Hopp and Jalali had not turned themselves in or been arrested on the warrants as of a 1 p.m. news conference, in which McLaughlin and Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda discussed the investigation and charges, but McLaughlin said his office has “had indications they do plan to turn themselves in.”
At the news conference, Swoboda lauded the work of the three detectives who worked full-time on the investigation over the past several weeks. He said they and other investigations conducted two-dozen interviews and went through hours of video and phone records.
The investigation led to a 700-page report that was presented to McLaughlin in a two-hour presentation, Swoboda said.
McLaughlin said the CIRT conducted a thorough investigation and took the probe “extremely seriously.” He said that what the independent report found led him and his office to believe that criminal charges should be filed against Hopp and Jalali.
McLaughlin said the investigation found that Hopp made “substantial omissions” when being interviewed about the incident “in an attempt to thwart the investigation of his conduct,” which led to the attempt to influence a public servant count. He said Hopp also used excessive force in arresting Garner.
The district attorney said he spoke with Garner’s family on Wednesday morning “to explain and let them know how we’d proceed in this case and that we would do our best to seek justice in this matter.”
The Garner family and their attorney, Sarah Schiedlke, are expected to discuss the outcome of the investigation and the charges for the two former officers in a news conference scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday
Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer is also expected to discuss the charges for the former Loveland officers just beforehand, at a news conference scheduled for 3 p.m.
McLaughlin and Swoboda said that the results of the investigation show how seriously the district attorney’s office and Fort Collins police take their roles in holding officers accountable.
“I believe this decision speaks clearly to our community that accountability will be achieved,” McLaughlin said.
Two of the charges Jalali faces – the failure to report use of force and failure to intervene – have new teeth under criminal statutes that were passed in Senate Bill 217 last year, the sweeping police accountability bill.
McLaughlin said that without those changes, he believes “that would have made this case significantly more difficult to prosecute.”
Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, one of the sponsors of that bill, said the charges for the former officers showed why passing such a bill was so important.
“While I have concerns with how this internal investigation was handled, these charges are clearly appropriate. They demonstrate just how important it was for us to pass police accountability legislation last year, and they show Colorado’s reforms are working,” Herod said in a statement. “In SB20-217, we created specific criminal misdemeanor offenses in order to prevent and hold law enforcement accountable for exactly these types of incidents. Because of our actions, these officers will now have to answer to the courts.”
McLaughlin said he was not sure if this was the first time that a current or former officer had been charged under the new statutes.
But Swoboda said that if the former officers are convicted, the new laws would “absolutely” affect their future possible careers in law enforcement.
McLaughlin said that he believes one of the people in his office, whom he said was still employed there, had previously seen some of the videos of Garner’s arrest when they decided to drop the charges against her. His administration took office in January, and he said he has made clear to members of his current office that he will not stand for any of them looking to other way regarding similar evidence.
“That has been made crystal clear to my employees now,” he said.
The 700-page report is not being released pending the outcome of the criminal court process, McLaughlin said, and the arrest affidavits for the former officers were released Wednesday afternoon.
Jalali's affidavit says she was charged with failure to intervene and failure to report use of force because she "had ample time" to recognize Garner had dementia and watched the body camera footage of Garner's arrest back, which "was clear that Officer Hopp was not acting reasonably in his use of force," and failed to report the use of force within 10 days.
An affidavit for Hopp’s arrest released Wednesday says that Hopp was aware he might have broken Garner’s shoulder and also knew that “this is going to turn into something,” as Jalali said to him. The affidavit also says that Garner told Hopp 14 times that her shoulder hurt, and he did not offer her medical treatment.
It also says he failed to send an officer to the hospital after Garner was taken there despite a corporal telling him to send someone there.
Further, the affidavit states that Hopp was misleading in his reports to his superiors, including the narrative he gave in his Blue Team excessive force report.
The district attorney said he could not discuss the facts of the case any more because of the pending criminal case.
Background on Hopp and Jalali's actions, discipline for other officers
Hopp and Jalali were no longer employed by the Loveland Police Department as of April 30, Police Chief Robert Ticer said at the time. Community Service Officer Tyler Blackett also either resigned or was fired; the department has not said which.
Hopp and Jalali were the two officers originally involved in Garner’s arrest. Blackett and the two officers were seen on video along with the other two officers laughing and joking about Garner’s arrest.
Loveland Police Sgt. Phillip Metzler, a supervisor involved in Garner’s arrest, was placed on administrative leave, and Sgt. Antolina Hill, a supervisor at the jail, was still on duty as of May 7.
On Tuesday, an ordinance that would establish a community trust commission in the wake of the Garner incident passed its first reading at Loveland City Council.
Police chief says he supports charges
“I fully support these charges,” said Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer in an afternoon news conference, adding that he had asked for a third-party internal affairs investigation into the Garner incident that will be overseen by the city’s human resources department.
He discussed some of the training his officers have gone through over the past month, including Alzheimer’s awareness training, and said they would be taking more de-escalation training as well.
Ticer said that an assistant city attorney will review all use of force cases moving forward “to ensure our existing policies are being followed.”
He maintained that he first learned of the Garner incident on April 14 when video was posted to the department’s Facebook page.
“I do not know that we would have found out about that if not for the federal lawsuit,” he said.
When asked about continued calls for his resignation, Ticer pointed to “a lot of emotions” in the community and said the desire for justice accountability was “what we’re seeing right now” with the former officers being charged.
He said that Metzler, the sergeant who responded to the scene that day, was still on administrative duty but would not say for how long he would be. And he said he believes the rest of his officers do not need to “have a message sent to them” by the charges because “they do it the right way.”
And after being asked what he would say to Garner’s family, he said that Wednesday’s charging decision “was a very strong message from this community … that really begins accountability and justice.”
Garner's family, attorney say more need to face consequences
But shortly afterward, and outside of the same building in which Ticer spoke, two of Garner’s family members and the attorney for the family, Sarah Schielke, said that while they appreciated Hopp and Jalali being charged, they believe Metzler should also face charges and that Hopp and Jalali should face more counts for the pain inflicted on Garner.
“That is a start, but it’s not good enough,” Schielke said. “Make no mistake, the Garner family feels immense relief the DA’s Office has charged some of these criminals with actual crimes. … Ultimately, the DA’s Office’s decision to stop their charging decision after Hopp and Jalali has left the family with more questions than answers and more concern than relief.”
“This is not an excessive force case,” Schielke added. “It’s torture. In broad daylight, by multiple officers — some in supervisory capacities.”
She said she was taken aback that Metzler was not charged and that Hopp and Jalali did not face further charges. Schielke listed off a host of felony and misdemeanor charges, including accessory to a crime, that she believes the district attorney should have charged the former and current officers with.
“Hopp’s conduct is certainly criminal and reprehensible, but multiple others assisted,” she said. “…District attorneys have no problem throwing the book at regular citizens when they engage in crime. Why was the DA’s Office so thoughtful and sparing?”
She said the family anxiously awaits answers as to why Metzler is still employed and why what she called the “old guard” – including the police chief, city manager and city councilmembers – “still believe they are qualified to stay in those positions.”
“I feel like these are pretty minimal crimes that they put against them, and there’s a whole list of charges they could have put against these officers. And they just put a few,” said Allisa Swartz, the daughter of Karen Garner. “…I feel like they think that they’re above the law, and they’re the ones that are supposed to be protecting all of us. I just want justice for my mom.”
Garner’s daughter-in-law Shannon Steward said she was pleased there were some criminal charges but said they needed to continue.
“And we need to find out everything that went on before April 14,” Steward said.
Both women described how much Garner had been changed by the incident, saying they saw her on Mother’s Day.
“She’s just really scared and traumatized,” said Swartz. “Instead of embracing us because we are her loved ones, she pushes us away instead of reaching over and touching us to let us know she cares. She just pulls away. She’s just scared.”
Steward said the family had not seen Garner smile since the incident and that it “truly changed the progression of how she was going” with her disease.
“We’re hoping if we can increase our visits, maybe we can bring back the recognition of us as her family,” Steward said. “We just don’t know. We have to keep taking it one day at a time.”
This is a developing news story and will be updated.