Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Loveland, Colorado, will pay $3 million to settle police-brutality case where the victim was a 73-year-old woman -- at 5-feet and 80 pounds, with dementia

The brutalization of Karen Garner, 73

A Colorado city has settled a police-brutality lawsuit, where the victim was a 73-year-old woman with dementia. Loveland, CO, police responded to a complaint from Wal-Mart employees who said Karen Garner walked out of the store without paying for several items. The cops hog-tied Garner, beat her up, and left her with serious injuries. She is 5-feet and weighs 80 pounds. From a report at the Denver Post:

What started last year in Loveland with a 73-year-old woman with dementia trying to leave Walmart with $13.88 in unpaid merchandise ended Wednesday with the city agreeing to pay a $3-million civil settlement.

The city of Loveland announced it will settle a federal lawsuit Karen Garner and her family brought after Garner was violently arrested by police in June 2020, bringing an end to a months-long saga that prompted widespread outrage, ended the careers of three Loveland police officers and brought about a third-party investigation into the police department.

“This settlement brings a measure of justice to the Garner family, but it does not deliver full justice,” the family’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, said during a news conference. “Full justice to Karen Garner and this community will happen at the moment that every individual who participated in this atrocity and who fostered the conditions and culture that made its happening possible is held accountable.”

Schielke called on Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer to resign:

“We need change, we need them to change,” said Garner’s daughter, Alissa Swartz.

Ticer said he has no intention of resigning.

“I understand the emotion, I understand those demands,” he said. “But my responsibility here is to ensure the investigations (into the Garner incident) that are moving forward are handled professionally.”

How could a forgetful act by a small, elderly woman lead to such an ugly event? For one thing, it involved grossly unprofessional police behavior. The Denver Post reports:

In June 2020, Garner had started to walk out of a Walmart store in Loveland without paying for her items when she was stopped by employees, who took the items back. Employees still called Loveland police and Officer Austin Hopp confronted Garner as she was walking home, throwing the woman to the ground. Hopp broke Garner’s arm and dislocated her shoulder during the arrest, according to the lawsuit.

Video shows Hopp, Officer Daria Jalali and Officer Tyler Blackett later laughing about the arrest as Garner sat in a nearby cell. They rewatched the body camera footage and Hopp asked, “Ready for the pop?” Schielke said it was the sound of Hopp dislocating Garner’s shoulder.

Hopp, Jalali and Blackett all resigned from the police department. Hopp and Jalali, who were both involved in the arrest, are also facing criminal charges. Sgt. Phil Metzler, a supervising officer who responded to the scene and approved the use of force, is still on paid leave from the department.

A third-party investigation into the police department’s handling of the incident has concluded, but the results may not be public for several months, city officials said in a statement.

Why was any use of force needed in such a situation? Documents show multiple police officials signed off on it:

The settlement announcement follows Schielke’s release Tuesday of an internal police report that shows three different police supervisors signed off on Hopp’s use of force against Garner, as well as the release of body-camera footage that shows Metzler dismissing a bystander’s concerns about the incident. Ticer declined to address the supervisors’ approvals, except to point out that Hopp faces charges related to deception.

“That is why we have a comprehensive third-party investigation evaluating that and any other policies in the department that may or may not have been applicable in this arrest,” he said.

Ticer said that Garner’s arrest led to a change in the police department’s use-of-force review process. Use-of-force incidents are now reviewed by an assistant city attorney and city of Loveland human resources personnel, instead of just by police personnel.

“There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner,” Ticer said. “We have agreed on steps we need to take to begin building back trust. Trust is very important. While these actions won’t change what Ms. Garner experienced, they will serve to improve this police department and hopefully restore faith that the LPD exists to serve those who live in and visit Loveland.”

The litigation process helped reveal a touching letter Garner had written several years ago:

The $3 million settlement will need to be approved by a probate court, and should be finalized within two or three months, Schielke said.

Swartz, Garner’s daughter, said the settlement money will be used to pay for the 24/7 dementia care that her mother now requires. When the family was considering whether to settle the case or continue to fight in court, she was guided by a letter Garner wrote years ago, when she knew dementia would later take hold of her.

The family discovered the letter a few weeks ago when going through Garner’s belongings.

“All I wanted all my life was someone to love, adore and care about,” she wrote. “And I find the world scary now, being alone. So value love as a treasured gift. It is all that matters. I want the best and fullest life possible for my children and grandchildren, and I feel the world is getting crueler. Don’t make it any rougher on yourselves by living in the past. Look out the front window and don’t dwell on what is in the rearview mirror.”


Anonymous said...

Whew, I feel safer now that this hardened criminal is off the streets.

legalschnauzer said...

I assume the cops beat up this woman because they felt their lives were in danger?

legalschnauzer said...

My understanding is that Ms. Garner was picking wildflowers along the roadside as she walked home from the Wal-Mart and police approached her. In the photo with this post, you can see a wildflower in her hand as police twist her arm behind her back, apparently breaking it and dislocating her shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Was it really necessary to hog-tie this woman and tear up her arm and shoulder -- over $13 worth of merchandise, which she apparently gave back when informed she hadn't paid for it?

legalschnauzer said...

Oh, and don't forget the popping sound of Ms. Garner's arm breaking caused the police to laugh. They must have thought it was funny. I'd say that's pretty sick.

legalschnauzer said...

The complaint in the Garner lawsuit can be read at the following URL:


Anonymous said...

Where's the crime here? If she was stopped before leaving the store and gave the items back, I don't see a crime. Why were the cops even called? Not sure Wal-Mart handled this very well.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is some info from the complaint that shines significant light on events:

4. The defendants’ proffered justification for all this? Ms. Garner was suspected of having exited a Walmart without paying for $13.88 of items. Walmart employees had stopped her at the exit and retrieved the items, however, and then refused to let her pay.

legalschnauzer said...

Key point: When Ms. Garner was stopped at the exit, she offered to pay for the items, and employees refused to let her pay. As you ask, @1:46, where's the crime? And why were police even called?

legalschnauzer said...

This report from UK Guardian includes Wal-Mart security footage. It says employees told police they did not suffer a loss:


RiccoPitts said...

They did the same to your wife. I hope her arm is better, but I fear at our age they never heal right. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that many of us still think about that day. Using that much force on an older lady was just crazy, but in a way, I guess you should feel lucky they didn't kill the both of you. I don't understand how they got away with that, but I do think you and your wife were marked people who never have been given a fair day in court. It might be in the next life, but they will have to answer for their conduct. Take care and may God Bless you and your wife.

legalschnauzer said...


Thanks for your kind message. Carol and I will be dealing with the fallout from that day he rest of our lives -- both because her arm will never be the same and because we lost almost all our possessions. We still are pushing for a fair day in court, and God willing, that day will come. We are thankful Ms. Garner and her family sent a loud message about police brutality in Colorado.