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The family of an elderly woman with dementia allegedly subjected to a violent arrest is voicing their concern that the former officer in the incident will be offered a plea deal.
The 2020 arrest of Karen Garner, 75, gained notoriety when officers with the Loveland Police Department in Colorado aggressively apprehended the woman, who was accused of shoplifting $13 worth of items at Walmart, as previously reported.
Bodycam footage showed the arrest by former officer Austin Hopp, which resulted in Garner sustaining a dislocated shoulder and fractured arm.
Ahead of Hopp’s next court hearing on Wednesday, Garner’s family claims that prosecutors offered Hopp a plea deal which would prevent them from getting the justice they believe Garner deserves, according to Denver’s Fox 31.
The terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Garner’s son and daughter-in-law, John and Shannon Steward, said they were “adamant” in their position that Hopp should not get any deal at all.
“When you hear the word plea ‘bargain,’ plea ‘deal,’ that means to cheapen something,” said Shannon Steward. “And we feel that this whole case is being cheapened by not allowing it to just go to court.”
Hopp, 27, was one of two officers charged in connection to Garner’s arrest, as previously reported. Last November, he pleaded not guilty to charges of assault causing serious bodily injury, official misconduct and attempt to influence a public servant.
Hopp and his colleague Daria Jalali, 27, responded to a complaint by Walmart employees on June 26, 2020 that Garner, who has dementia, allegedly stole items from the store. Garner’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, claimed the store forced Garner back into Walmart and collected the items from Garner before she had the chance to offer to pay for them.
As seen in a widely circulated video obtained by the Associated Press, Hopp then found Garner walking on the side of the road. Seemingly confused by the officer’s presence, Garner shrugged him off before Hopp forcefully restrained Garner.
“I’m going home,” the woman yelled as Hopp hogtied her.
Garner's lawyer later released a second video, showing Hopp, Jalali and another male officer looking back at the bodycam footage from the arrest at the station. Garner remained handcuffed to a bench in a cell a few feet away.
Hopp told his colleagues to get ready for the “pop,” referring to the dislocation of Garner’s shoulder.
“I love it,” Hopp remarked on the video. “I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old on the ground.”
Both officers resigned from their positions at the department.
Schielke claimed her client, who lives with dementia and sensory aphasia, had grown withdrawn and depressed since the incident.
Garner’s family still held out hope that the officers would face their days in court. According to CBS Denver 4, Shannon Steward claimed the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office asked them to consider a deal for Hopp, but the family had no intention of entertaining a bargain.
“Back in May, when they announced charges, we were adamant we wouldn’t accept a plea deal,” said Shannon. “Now, having the DA’s office offer a plea deal and lessen what we all started out with is very disconcerting. It felt like a gut punch. It felt like more damage to Karen’s legacy.”
The Stewards are accusing the district attorney’s office of moving forward with the deal anyway.
“It just feels like a betrayal,” Shannon continued. “It feels like everyone was willing to jump up and call for justice when this was all over the media and in the spotlight. And here we are, nine months later, and they are willing to sweep it under the rug.”
Garner’s family believes a plea deal for Hopp could prevent the police from changing their procedures moving forward.
“It's become clear that even the Loveland Police Department, they’re not serving and protecting the citizens of Loveland,” John Steward told Fox 31. “So we want to make sure that justice prevails in this case, so maybe there will be some change in that police force.”
“We know a lot about this case because of the videos,” said Shannon Steward. “Clearly, we felt there was enough evidence before the assault, during the assault, and after the assault that this would easily hold up in court. So, we don’t see any reason we would lessen the charges.”
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