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Two former Colorado police officers involved in the violent arrest last summer of an older woman who has dementia and trouble communicating are now facing charges relating to the attack and its aftermath, it was announced this week.
Former Loveland police officer Austin Hopp, 26, was recorded on body camera video tackling 73-year-old Karen Garner to the ground on June 26 after she shrugged him off when he stopped her on suspicion of taking $13.88 worth of merchandise from a local Walmart and a subsequent encounter with a store employee. He has been charged with assault causing serious bodily injury, official misconduct and attempt to influence a public servant, Gordon McLaughlin, the district attorney for Colorado's 8th Judicial District, announced on Wednesday.
Former officer Daria Jalali, 27, who had arrived at the scene that day was charged with failure to report use of force, failure to intervene and official misconduct, McLaughlin said.
Booking records show that Hopp was taken into custody at the Larimer County Jail in Fort Collins early this morning; roughly an hour later Jalali turned herself in at the jail. She had a $5,000 personal recognizance bond set and bonded out in less than an hour, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald. No bond amount was set for Hopp and he is set to appear in court May 25. When contacted, the office of his attorney, Jonathan Datz, said there is no comment on the case at this time. An attorney for Jalali did not immediately return a call from Oxygen.com.
Police had reportedly been called by Walmart staff after Garner removed the mask of an employee as she left without paying for her items. In the body camera footage, she is seen walking through a field holding wildflowers she had apparently been picking. Within 30 seconds of being approached by Hopp, Garner is tackled to the ground.
Hopp made “substantial omissions” while he was being interviewed about the arrest “in an attempt to thwart the investigation of his conduct,” McLaughlin said.
Garner's attorney, Sarah Schielke, has said that her client had a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder after being attacked by Hopp. Garner, who has dementia and sensory aphasia, has been withdrawn and depressed since the incident, according to her family. Sensory aphasia impairs a person’s ability to communicate and understand the communications of others.
Speaking with Oxygen.com on Thursday, Schielke said that Hopp was not made aware of the mask-removing incident at Walmart, and was only informed that a small woman had left with some items — which included detergent, soda, and a candy bar. Garner was diagnosed with dementia last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed their movement toward getting her into a memory and dementia care facility. She has been living about 100 yards from her daughter, which is about half a mile from the Walmart.
"She loved to walk, and the doctor said to keep her routine," Schielke said, "It's what makes her happy, so don't disrupt that [the doctor said]."
In April, footage was released of the officers at the local precinct apparently laughing, bantering and exchanging fist bumps while watching bodycam footage of the incident — all while an injured Garner sat on a nearby bench.
In the footage, Jalali remarks on how much she enjoys watching bodycam footage, comparing it to live television. At one point, she asks if Garner is holding flowers during the arrest, which Hopp confirms.
“Ready for the pop?” Hopp asks Jalali and former community service officer Tyler Blackett, who was also present. “I think it was her shoulder,” Hopp says when asked where the sound originated.
“The comment was made while Karen Garner, who has dementia, remained handcuffed to a bench in a cell just 10 feet away from them, alone, confused and crying in pain,” Schielke stated. "She would ultimately go over six hours without any medical attention.”
Last month, it was announced that all three officers are no longer with the department after they and the city of Loveland were sued over the arrest and the treatment of Garner while in custody. Sgt. Antolina Hill, a supervisor at the jail who was on duty that day and per the complaint did not intervene, was added to an amended complaint in April; Supervising officer Sgt. Philip Metzler, who had been accused of denying Garner access to medical care and trying to cover up the actions of the department, was named in the original lawsuit. No charges have been filed against the other three officers at this stage.
Hill and Metzler are still with the department. Metzler is on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation and Hill remains in her position, Loveland Police Public Information Officer Tom Hacker told Oxygen.com on Thursday.
At a Wednesday news conference, Ticer said that he cannot comment on specific allegations but noted that the two officers involved in the attack on Garner have no previous disciplinary actions on their records. He did tell reporters that most of the officers in his department have undergone Alzheimer's awareness training and that additional de-escalation training has been set up for next month.
"I fully support these charges,” he said.
Allisa Schwartz, Garner’s daughter, said through tears at a Wednesday press conference that she felt the officers who attacked her mother, then mocked her pain got off easy.
"I feel like these are pretty minimal crimes that they put against them, and there's a whole list of charges they could have put against these officers," Schwartz said. "It feels like they are hiding behind this department. I feel like they think they are above the law and they're the ones that are supposed to be protecting all of us."
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