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Despite opposition from the victim’s family, the ex-cop behind the violent arrest of a woman with dementia has pleaded out.
Former Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of second-degree assault in connection with the widely scrutinized arrest of Karen Garner, according to NBC affiliate 9 News. The plea deal comes days after Garner’s family adamantly opposed the state’s proposal for a bargain.
“Given the info from the DA, and looking at this and balancing with other cases that have been with the court, it appears that it is acceptable to accept the plea deal,” said Judge Michelle Brinegar, according to CBS Denver.
Hopp initially entered a plea of not guilty on charges of assault causing serious bodily injury, official misconduct, and attempt to influence a public servant.
“Today, our office secured a guilty plea to a Class 4 felony assault for former Loveland officer Austin Hopp related to his arrest of Karen Garner,” Larimer County District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin tweeted. “This result brings significant criminal accountability for his assault of Ms. Garner and shows such abuse of power will not be tolerated.”
The Loveland Police Department quoted McLaughlin’s tweet with their own message.
“Our department appreciates your pursuit of justice,” stated the police. “What happened to Ms. Garner is a stark reminder that no police officer is above the law. We appreciate the DA’s efforts in pursuing justice for Ms. Garner and her family.”
In 2020, Karen Garner, then-73, was arrested by Hopp after she allegedly attempted to steal $13 worth of merchandise from a Walmart in Loveland, Colorado, as previously reported. Hopp’s aggressive arrest of Garner on the side of the road, as captured by his body-worn camera, caused Garner to suffer a dislocated shoulder and fractured arm after Hopp wrestled her to the ground and hog-tied her.
Garner lives with dementia and sensory aphasia.
Garner’s lawyer later released a second video showing Hopp and others, including officer Daria Jalali, watching the bodycam footage back at the station and laughing when Hopp dislocated Garner’s shoulder.
“I love it,” Hopp said while Garner remained handcuffed to a bench just feet away from the officers. “I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old to the ground.”
Jalali, who was present for Garner’s arrest, pleaded not guilty to charges of failure to report use of force, failure to intervene, and official misconduct.
The city later settled a civil lawsuit filed by Garner’s family and agreed to pay $3 million.
At Wednesday’s hearing, relatives, including Garner’s daughter-in-law, Shannon Steward, said Hopp’s plea deal felt like a betrayal.
“Thirty-eight times, Karen said, ‘I’m going home, I’m going home, I’m going home,’ during the arrest, and he ignored her,” Shannon said, according to CBS Denver. “Then 10 times while she was chained to the bench, she said she hurt her shoulder but was denied medical treatment. She had pleas that were ignored. And when we have to come here today and honor him with this plea deal, it is just a slap in the face.”
Garner’s son, John Steward, said he was “very disappointed” with the judge’s decision.
According to News 9, Hopp faces a sentence of two to eight years behind bars, but probation is also possible for the defendant as it’s an open sentence. Had Hopp been found guilty of the initial charges, he faced a mandatory sentence of 10 to 32 years in prison.
“We do know our God is greater and more powerful than this,” Shannon Steward continued. “At the end of the day, he will seek the justice for us and the justice for my mom that she needs.”
Hopp is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on May 5.
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