Evidence is overwhelming that Black Americans absorb the majority of damage rogue law-enforcement officers inflict on our society. But a case is unfolding in Colorado that seems to break the mold. In fact, the arrest and brutalization of Karen Garner goes beyond boundaries of race, gender, age, even mental-health status. (See video above.)
Garner, a 73-year-old white woman with dementia, was shopping at a Loveland, CO, Wal-Mart when she allegedly walked out of the store without paying for several items. Given her mental status, did Garner simply forget to pay for the items? Does this happen fairly often with those who have dementia?
Those questions revolve around a federal lawsuit that has been filed on Garner's behalf, alleging excessive use of force and serious bodily injury. From a report at cbslocal.com in Denver:
The Loveland Police Department is responding to a federal lawsuit that alleges “excessive use of force” and serious injury during an arrest of a woman in her 70s. The department became aware of the lawsuit on Wednesday after body camera video was posted on the Loveland Police Department’s Facebook page.
The shoplifting arrest of Karen Garner, 73, happened on June 26, 2020. Police said they will investigate the incident that will include “an examination of all images, documents and records compiled” in connection with the event. Garner was suspected of having taken $13.88 in items from a Walmart without paying for them.
The Life & Liberty Law Office representing Garner said that she suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate and understand others’ communications. She is also 5-feet and weighs 80 pounds. According to her attorneys, on the day in question, she was walking through a field, picking wildflowers when Officer Hopp stopped, called out to her to stop and talk to him.
According to the statement from the Life & Liberty Law Office, When she indicated she did not understand him, and turned to continue walking home, he grabbed her and violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her. Just eight seconds passed between Officer Hopp reaching Ms. Garner and Officer Hopp throwing her tiny body to the ground and putting her in handcuffs. Defendant Officer Jalali then arrived and assisted Officer Hopp in violently and needlessly dislocating Ms. Garner’s shoulder, fracturing her humerus, and spraining her wrist. Then they threw her onto the ground again and hog-tied her. Throughout this attack, the only thing the terrified, disabled and injured Ms. Garner was able to utter was “I’m going home!”. She cried out these words over 38 times.
Don't police have methods for a situation like this that don't involve breaking an elderly woman's arm, dislocating her shoulder, spraining her wrist, and forcing her to be hog-tied? Those seem to be among numerous questions Garner's lawyers are asking:
Garner’s lawyers accuse supervising officer Sgt. Metzler of helping his subordinates cover up the brutality and allegedly directed that Garner be denied access to medical care for her injuries. Metzler also is alleged to have kept his own body camera deactivated and failed to write a report regarding use of force, both of which are claimed to be a violation of the Loveland Police Department’s written policies.
The attorneys go on to claim that Garner was ignored despite repeated complaints of pain and that medical care was not sought for her in the several hours she remained with police, instead she was handcuffed to a cell at the station for more than 2 hours. She was then transferred to the Larimer County Jail where she remained for another 3 hours without medical treatment.
According to Loveland police, the arresting officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome. An officer who assisted in the arrest and the on-scene supervisor have been reassigned to administrative duties.
Garner’s attorneys say that since her arrest last summer, she has become withdrawn, depressed, afraid to go outdoors and that she needs help getting dressed and showering because she has lost most functional use of her left arm.
A report at 9news.com includes perspective from Wal-Mart employees:
[Garner's] crime? The lawsuit suggests she attempted to leave a Walmart with less than $14 worth of items she forgot to purchase. A statement from Walmart indicates that police were called only after Garner became "physical" with an associate.
“We stopped Ms. Garner after noticing her attempt to take merchandise from the store without paying for it," the statement says. "When we addressed this issue directly with her the situation escalated when she forcibly removed an associate’s facemask and fled the store. The police were called only after Ms. Garner became physical with an associate.”
The lawsuit says Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken humerus and a sprained wrist during the arrest which happened not long after she left the store.
The arrest, captured on an officer’s body camera, repeatedly shows Garner saying, “I’m going home” to the arresting officer.
She was two blocks away from her home.
Sarah Schielke, of Loveland, is the lead attorney for Garner:
According to the lawsuit, Garner spent two hours inside a Loveland Police jail cell and an additional three hours inside a cell at the Larimer County Jail.
Attorney Sarah Schielke, who represents Garner, said the arresting officers told the Larimer County jail staff that Garner was uninjured despite obvious signs that she had painful injuries.
Garner, according to Schielke, is 5 feet tall and weighs 80 pounds.
The lawsuit says Garner left the Walmart with a Pepsi, a candy bar, a t-shirt and some Shout Wipe refills.
“Walmart employees stopped her and escorted her back inside, where they took the items back. Ms. Garner attempted to hand them her credit card to pay, but they refused,” the lawsuit reads.
“Ms. Garner, unable to communicate with them or fully grasp what was going on, then walked out of the store and began walking the short distance back to her home,” it says.