DENVER – Fort Collins Police Services has been tapped by the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to lead an independent investigation into the June 2020 arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia.
The woman’s arrest made news last week after an excessive force lawsuit was filed against the Loveland Police Department over the treatment of 73-year-old Karen Garner by officers, who allegedly suffered a dislocated shoulder and broken arm during the arrest last June in a field two blocks from her home in Loveland.
Loveland police last week placed the officer accused of excessive force on administrative leave and said another officer involved in Garner’s arrest and a supervisor at the scene had been reassigned to administrative duties.
The lawsuit claims Garner was arrested after being suspected of shoplifting around $14 in items from a nearby Walmart. A Walmart spokesperson confirmed the store called police after the incident, in which Garner allegedly also took a mask off an employee’s face, according to the company. Garner was stopped by police officers as she walked home.
Video provided by Garner’s attorney shows her arrest and appears to show the woman is confused and mumbling. The lawsuit claims officers used excessive force while arresting her and trying to get her into custody that led to the injuries. The district attorney’s office dismissed the charges against her, and Garner is currently living in a memory care facility, according to her attorney.
Last week, the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office said it had not reviewed the incident and said no investigation regarding officers’ use of force had been presented by police.
The district attorney’s office said Monday it had requested an official Critical Incident Response Team review of the incident between police and Garner, which will be led by Fort Collins Police Services.
If the department needs assistance, it will get it from the DA’s Office, the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, and the FBI, which is also investigating.
“Public trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system is vital to the safety and fairness which we all endeavor to ensure in our communities,” said a release from the district attorney’s office, which covers Larimer and Jackson counties. “The robust, unbiased, and transparent procedures used in the 8th Judicial District CIRT protocol will not only ensure there is accountability for any potential criminal behavior but will also give our community the information and framework with which to evaluate our performance and have faith in the results of our investigations.”
Garner's family released the following statement:
"This is a small, but long overdue, step in the right direction. Many people have questioned why we didn't file a complaint to the department when Karen was hurt. Based on what we saw on the video, what we saw Sergeant Metzler do in the face of a citizen complaint on the video, and the fact that the prior DA had watched the footage and never called for an investigation into the officers' condut before dismissing the case — the fact is, we just could not trust that it would be properly addressed. Clearly, the newly elected DA understands what we suspected last summer — that only an independent, outside investigation, with all the world's attention, will reveal the truth."
Loveland police have reportedly accepted an officer from the Alzheimer’s Association to help train officers on how to spot dementia and how to handle people with dementia.