Three more officers on leave over arrest of woman, 73, with dementia

Three more officers on leave over arrest of woman, 73, with dementia
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Minyvonne Burke
·3 min read
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Two more Loveland, Colorado, police officers and a sergeant were placed on administrative leave after the arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia — an encounter that is now the focus of a criminal investigation.

Officer Austin Hopp was placed on leave earlier this month after a federal lawsuit accused him and a second officer of injuring Karen Garner during the June 26 arrest, which was captured on body camera video.

Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, fractured arm and sprained wrist after she was slammed to the ground, hogtied and then placed in the back of a police car, according to the suit.

She was walking home when she was stopped for allegedly trying to steal $13.88 worth of items from a Walmart. Garner's attorney, Sarah Schielke, said her client has dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate with people or understand others' communications.

Schielke said because of the dementia Garner forgot to pay for the items, which were retrieved by Walmart employees.

A Loveland police officer arrests Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia, on June 26 in Colorado (The Life and Liberty Law Office)
A Loveland police officer arrests Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia, on June 26 in Colorado (The Life and Liberty Law Office)

On Tuesday, the Loveland City Manager's Office announced that officers Tyler Blackett and Daria Jalali, along with Sgt. Philip Metzler, were also on administrative leave. It was not immediately clear if the leave was paid.

Jalali was the responding officer during Garner's arrest and Metzler was the supervisor who arrived on scene, according to the lawsuit.

Justine Bruno, a spokesperson for the city manager, said Blackett is a community service officer. Bruno said CSOs are primarily responsible for transporting suspects to jail but could not speak directly on Blackett's role in the incident.

The disciplinary actions come days after Schielke released a video of three Loveland officers laughing about Garner's arrest.

The footage came from a camera inside the Loveland Police Department and includes subtitles that haven’t been verified by NBC News.

In it, Hopp says he thought the arrest went "great." The officer, along with two others, then watch the body camera video. Hopp asks, “Ready for the pop?” appearing to refer to the moment when he dislocated Garner's shoulder.

Schielke said she obtained the video after her client was charged with theft, resisting arrest and obstruction. The charges were later dismissed, she said.

The Loveland Police Department said in a statement Wednesday that the officers' actions during the arrest are now the subject of a criminal investigation led by District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin and the Fort Collins Police Services.

McLaughlin said in the statement that he will consider the officers' comments about the arrest, along with other evidence, in making his charging decision.

McLaughlin went on to say he will ask investigators "to interview all relevant witnesses and assess the appropriateness of charges for anyone whom the facts indicate may bear criminal culpability."

The four officers could not be reached Thursday at phone numbers listed for them, and it's not clear if they have obtained legal counsel. The Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately return a request for comment.