After violently arresting woman, 73, with dementia, police laughed about it, video shows: ‘We crushed it’

LOVELAND- Last June, Karen Garner sat handcuffed to a bench inside a booking cell weeping and in pain.

No one had come to treat her fractured arm and dislocated shoulder hours after Loveland, Colo., police violently arrested the 73-year-old with dementia, her family said.

Meanwhile, about 10 feet away, three officers sat hunched around a computer as they re-watched body-camera footage of Garner’s arrest, a new video released by the attorney representing Garner’s family shows.

“Ready for the pop? Hear the pop?” the officer who initially handcuffed Garner can be heard saying, referencing the moment he injured her shoulder.

The nearly one-hour booking cell video released Monday shows two Loveland Police Department officers who participated in Garner’s arrest fist-bumping each other while discussing the incident. At one point, they are joined by another officer as they mock and praise the arrest, which they claimed “went great,” while referring to Garner as “ancient,” “senile” and “flexible.”

“We crushed it,” one of the officers says.

Sarah Schielke, an attorney representing Garner’s family, called the video “heart-wrenching” and “unseeable.” Schielke, who obtained the initially inaudible video last August, worked with a forensics audio engineer to capture the dialogue.

“At one point, I broke down and I wept because it was so raw, wrong and heartless,” Schielke told The Washington Post. “I don’t even know Karen, but it could have been my grandmother and I can’t imagine what the experience of having to live through that would be.”

Two weeks ago, following public outcry after body-camera footage of the incident was released, the city announced it would open an independent investigation into Garner’s treatment. Colorado’s Eighth Judicial district attorney, Gordon McLaughlin, said his office’s critical response team would investigate whether there was “any potential criminal behavior” by the Loveland officers.

On Tuesday, a Loveland police spokesman said four officers including Austin Hopp, the first to handcuff Garner, have been suspended. The criminal investigation will be conducted by McLaughlin’s office and the Fort Collins Police Department.

“Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer strongly advocated for the criminal investigation, in consultation with the DA and other police agencies,” Tom Hacker, a Loveland police spokesman said in an email.

In a statement shared with The Post, McLaughlin said he has reviewed the booking cell footage released on Monday and that the investigation “is a priority for my office.” “The statements on the videos are very concerning,” McLaughlin said. “I will consider those statements along with all relevant evidence … in making a charging decision.”

Garner’s family, which filed a federal lawsuit against the city and three of the officers two weeks ago, has since filed an amended complaint adding two more Loveland officers for allegedly failing to intervene or provide medical care to Garner based on the recently released booking video.

In a statement shared with The Post, Garner’s family said they are devastated and angered after watching the booking cell video.

“Karen is our mother. She is our children’s grandmother. She is a human being,” the family said. “The Loveland Police treated her like an animal. They reveled in her pain and did nothing to address it. They relished in stripping her of all dignity. Our hearts could not ache more.”

Prosecutors open criminal probe into police who allegedly broke the arm of a 73-year-old woman with dementia

Police aggressively arrested the 80-pound woman as she was plucking purple wildflowers and strolling back home on June 26. They had been called after she left a Walmart without paying for items worth $13.88, according to her family’s lawsuit. Walmart said employees called the police after Garner allegedly pulled off an employee’s mask during the incident.

Body-camera footage shows Hopp grabbing Garner by her arms and wrenching them backward to handcuff her as she repeatedly cried that she was “going home.” At one point, Garner fell to the ground as officers struggled with her before putting her in a cruiser. Prosecutors later dropped all charges against Garner.

In the lawsuit, Garner’s family argues that due to dementia and sensory aphasia, a condition that leaves her unable to understand speech or to communicate easily, she was unable to understand the police officers’ commands. Schielke, the family’s attorney, said the incident could have been avoided had police requested a mental health unit.
After the lawsuit was filed, the department said it had not received a previous complaint about the incident and it was unaware of Garner’s injuries. But Schielke alleges the booking cell video disproves that because officers can be heard discussing a report that “alerts the department and creates an official record that force was used or an injury occurred.” That report allegedly made by the officers would have gone up the chain of command, Schielke said.

The nearly one-hour long booking video released on Monday, which was compiled in an edited 14-minute clip, shows Hopp along with officers Daria Jalali and Tyler Blackett watching the body-camera footage of Garner’s arrest while laughing and joking. “I hate this,” Jalali can be heard saying.

“This is great,” Hopp said.

“I love it,” Blackett replied.

At one point, as the three officers remain glued to the computer screen re-watching the arrest, one officer says, “It’s like TV!”

“The body-cam show,” another officer replied, while laughing.

Near the end of the clip, Hopp says Garner is the first person he’s ever used his hobble restraint on during an arrest. “I was super excited,” Hopp said. “I was like, ‘All right, let’s wrestle, girl. Let’s wreck it!’ I got her on the ground and all that stuff. I got her cuffed up. … Threw her on the ground a couple of times.”

He added, “I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old on the ground.”

The officers also appear to monitor Garner from a screen and at one point Jalali enters her cell and comes back to report that Garner is claiming the handcuffs are hurting her hands.

Schielke said it took six hours before Garner was seen by a doctor.

Months after her arrest, Garner moved into a memory care facility about 45 minutes away from Loveland, where she used to live in a condo one block away from a daughter’s house. While Garner used to play cards, garden and was “fiercely independent,” she dropped those activities after the arrest, Schielke said.

“Since this happened, it’s vanished,” Schielke said. “The Loveland Police Department took it all away from her and now we know they laughed about it, too.”

Schielke said the family wants all the officers involved to be fired but also wants systemic change in the department and city leadership.

“We want to ensure that it doesn’t happen to anyone else again,” Schielke said. “What the family has lost here money of course can’t cure, but money will cause change.”

Andrea Salcedo for The Washington Post
Haltzman Law Firm

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