LOVELAND, Colo. — An excessive force lawsuit was filed against the Loveland Police Department in connection with a June 2020 arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia.
Civil rights attorney Sarah Schielke, of The Life & Liberty Law Office, filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Karen Garner.
The lawsuit claims Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder and broken arm during the arrest on June 26, 2020 in a field two blocks from her Loveland home.
Garner was arrested after a shoplifting incident at a nearby Walmart. According to the lawsuit, Garner was suspected of leaving the store without paying for $13.88 worth of items, a common practice among those with dementia, the suit claims.
The store called police and she was stopped by a Loveland officer as she was walking home.
Nearly thirty minutes of body camera footage released by the law office show police interactions in the moments leading up, during and after the arrest of Garner. The video can be seen in its entirety below (caution: disturbing).
In the video, Officer Austin Hopp said, "Alright let's stop ma'am. I don't think you want to play it this way. Ma'am, police. Stop," as he exited his patrol car.
Garner appears confused and responds with mumbling.
Two minutes into the body cam video the suit says Hopp grabs Garner's left arm and takes her to ground.
Garner is eventually handcuffed and taken the patrol car.
The suit says when officer Daria Jalali arrived on scene she, "put her own hands on Ms. Garner to hold her while Officer Hopp continued pushing painfully upward on Ms. Garner’s already-restrained left arm and while also violently touching her all over her body."
Throughout the video the 73-year-old woman is exclaiming, “I’m going home!” to officers.
"It makes you very worried about vulnerable people in the community with a police force like that," said Schielke. "The behavior is indefensible they knew they were being recorded and yet they did it anyway, we have to ask, 'why?'"
The lawsuit claims Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm as a result of the “violent” arrest. Additionally, the suit claims officers refused to provide her medical care for her injuries or mental health assistance.
“Instead, the officers handcuffed her to a cell at the station for over 2 hours, keeping her isolated and terrified, in extreme pain, and then deposited her at the Larimer County jail where they lied and said she was uninjured, which ensured she continued to not receive medical treatment for another 3 hours,” the law office wrote in a press release.
Garner was eventually taken to a hospital for treatment. She is currently living in a memory care facility, the law office said.
Loveland Police Department spokesperson Tom Hacker issued a statement on behalf of the department Thursday afternoon saying the officer involved in the arrest has been put on administrative leave and that another officer who assisted in the arrest, as well as the on-scene supervisor, have been reassigned to administrative duties.
“LPD takes very seriously the allegations concerning the arrest of resident Karen Garner, and shares with the community the concerns about video images that became public on Wednesday,” Hacker wrote in the release.
The department said it became aware of the details of the lawsuit only on Wednesday when the video was posted to the department’s Facebook page. It said it was conducting an investigation that will look at the actions of all officer involved in the incident.
“The department has undertaken an investigation of the June 26 2020, incident that will include the examination of all images, documents and record compiled in connection with the event.”