Police in Loveland, Colorado dislocated the shoulder of a 73-year-old woman, who lives with dementia, after she simply forgot to pay Walmart $13.88 on June 26, 2020, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court. The law office that represents Karen Garner released body-cam footage from the point-of-view of the arresting officer.
Video shows the officer in question pulling up to the side of the road, and approaching Garner from behind. He told her to stop.
As seen on video, the 73-year-old shrugged. According to the complaint, Garner lives with cortical dementia. This is characterized by the impairment of at least two brain functions, the lawsuit states. On top of that, she has sensory aphasia, which they described as an “inability to understand spoken, written or tactile speech symbols that results from damage to the area of the brain concerned with language.”
“You just left Walmart,” said the arresting officer, identified in the complaint as Austin Hopp. “Do you need to be arrested right now?”
Garner turned to walk away.
“No, no, no,” said Hopp. He grabbed her from behind, and pulled her arms behind her back in order to handcuff her in the grass and dirt.
As seen on video, she said she was going home.
“Don’t do that,” she said repeatedly.
Hopp called in the arrest.
“Why did you do that?” he told Garner. “I told you to stop. You don’t get to act this way.” He yanked what seemed to be a phone from her hand, and threw it to the grass.
Throughout the video, Garner said she was going home, and Hopp insisted that she was fighting him.
The complaint describes the exact moment the shoulder dislocation occurred:
Accordingly, next, without warning or justification, Officer Hopp took Ms. Garner’s entire bent and restrained left arm with both hands and he shoved it violently forward onto the hood of his car. You can see and hear on his video how this fractured and dislocated Ms. Garner’s shoulder.
“Are you finished?” Hopp said, twisting her left arm and he bent her over the hood of his vehicle. “Are you finished? We don’t play this game. You understand me? If you try to kick me, oh, this is going to be bad.”
Another officer, identified in the lawsuit as Daria Jalali, arrived, and helped in the arrest.
A male bystander was apparently so disturbed by the sight that he drove up, and called out to police. He said he wanted to complain to Hopp’s sergeant, and to file a report that the officer threw a “little kid.” (The lawsuit describes Garner as just five feet fall, and weighing just 80 pounds. Hopp himself later on estimates that she is between 4’10” and 5 feet tall, and weighs maybe 100 pounds. He told Jalali that Garner was “like 20 pounds.” Elsewhere, he also said she was a “frail little thing.”
Hopp told the bystander that the woman stole from Walmart, refused to listen to lawful orders, and fought.
“This is what happens when you fight the police,” he said. “I have to use force to safely detain her. That’s what this is. This isn’t some random act of aggression. I don’t know if you realize that.”
The bystander continued to question what happened.
“See, you don’t know the whole situation,” said Hopp. “That’s the thing.” He later told the man to “get all of the facts” before making a “snap judgment.”
All told, the lawsuit states Garner sustained a fractured and dislocated shoulder. She also sustained other injuries including scrapes to her face, a bloody nose, and contusions to her knees.
According the complaint, Garner allegedly left a Walmart without paying for $13.88 of merchandise. Employees stopped her, took back the items, and refused to let her pay when she offered her credit card. She was unable to communicate with them or understand what was happening, the complaint stated.
“Forgetting to pay for items at a store is one of the most common and well-known symptoms witnessed in elderly persons suffering from dementia,” the lawsuit stated.
Supervising officer Sgt. Philip Metzler is also being sued with the city, Hopp, and Jalali. He is accused of helping cover up what happened, and of making so it Garner was denied access to medical care.
From the complaint:
Ms. Garner’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force as described herein was clearly established at the time the Defendant officers Hopp, Jalali and Metzler attacked her, handcuffed her, broke her arm, hog-tied her, and then kept her in isolation away from medical care in pain and handcuffs for six hours.
The Loveland Police Department said Thursday that they are investigating the incident, and said that they only learned about it the day before. Hopp, who the department did not name, is on administrative leave, pending the investigation. Jalali and Metzler, also not identified by the department, are on administrative duties. Jalali was a school resource officer, at least as of 2019.
You can read the full complaint here:
[Screengrab via Loveland Police Department]
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