A police officer has been suspended after arresting a 73-year-old woman with dementia, pushing her to the ground and leaving her with a fractured arm, after she forgot to pay for items at Walmart.
Karen Garner was arrested by Loveland Police on June 26, 2020 after Walmart employees noted that she left the store with a candy bar, a can of Pepsi and a t-shirt totaling $13.38.
Store employees had stopped her at the exit and retrieved the items after refusing to let her pay, the Greeley Tribune reports.
But as she later walked home, cops caught up with Garner, who appears visibly confused in police bodycam footage that captured the encounter.
A Colorado attorney has since filed a federal lawsuit on behalf Garner.
On Thursday the department placed arresting officer Austin Hopp on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
Assisting officer Daria Jalali and the on-scene supervising sergeant Phil Metzler have been reassigned to administrative duties, the Loveland Police Department said.
‘LPD takes very seriously the allegations concerning the arrest of resident Karen Garner, and shares with the community the concerns about video images that became public on Wednesday,’ the department said in a statement.
Karen Garner, 73, was arrested by Loveland Police on June 26, 2020 after Walmart employees noted that she left the store with a candy bar, a can of Pepsi and a t-shirt totaling $13.38
Garner (pictured in a photograph taken several years ago) suffers from dementia and was confused about what was going on
In the footage, Officer Hopp is seen dragging Garner – who is five feet tall and weighs 80 pounds – to the ground as she screams ‘I’m going home’.
Garner is subsequently seen being pushed up against the officers’ police car as she continues to wail ‘I’m going home!’
‘Quit it!’ Officer Jalali can be heard commanding as she pulls Garner’s arm behind her back.
At that point, a snapping sound can be heard on the bodycam footage and Garner cries out in pain.
Attorney Sarah Schielke from the Life and Liberty Law Office submitted the suit Wednesday, alleging Garner suffered ‘a fractured arm and a dislocated shoulder’ due to officers’ use of ‘excessive force’.
In another portion of the video, a driver can be seen stopping to inquire about the arrest.
‘Do you have to use that much aggression?’ the passerby asks the cops.
‘Get out of here! This is not your business!’ Officer Hopp replies.
Officer Daria Jalali is pictured during the arrest of Karen Garner
Garner was subsequently placed up against the officers’ police car as she continued to wail ‘I’m going home!’
‘A little muddy, a little bloody, that’s how it works!’ Garner appeared terrified during the arrest
Soon after, a third officer arrives at the scene and asks ‘Are you guys all good?’
‘A little muddy, a little bloody, that’s how it works!’ Officer Jalali before confirming the blood was from Garner.
Garner was taken into custody where she was reportedly held for hours without medical attention, despite insisting she was in pain.
Photos taken in the aftermath of the arrest show the elderly Garner with a severely bruised and swollen arm. She also sustained a bloody nose.
‘It is a hard-to-watch video,’ Schielke told the Reporter-Herald.
‘It is the opposite of community policing. I thought a lot about this case as I have prepared to file it, and on paper and in the legal pleading it is an excessive-force case. In reality when you watch the video, you see this is a torture case.’
The specific amount of damages Schielke is seeking on behalf of Garner is unclear. A judge is expected to set a court date in the coming days.
The police department said it had not received a complaint about Garner’s arrest before the lawsuit was filed.
Photos taken in the aftermath of the arrest show the elderly Garner with a severely bruised and swollen arm. She also sustained a bloody nose
A photograph of Garner’s severely bruised arm is seen above
However, the body camera footage shows a man who stopped to film the arrest talking to the arresting officer and later to the sergeant to express concern about what he saw. The sergeant, talking to the man in the background, tells him: ‘Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.’
Schielke said the man was ‘gaslit’ and questioned why anyone in Garner’s family would want to file a complaint given that reaction. To her, the sergeant’s response shows that the culture of the department, along with a lack of training, are the root problems that led to the arrest.
According to the lawsuit, Walmart employees asked Garner to return to the store when they saw her leave without paying and took the items back – a soda, a candy bar, a T-shirt, and wipe refills – denying her request to pay for the items.
Someone from Walmart then called police to report Garner and the direction she walking but said the store had not suffered a loss, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, claims that no one sought medical help for Garner until about six hours after she was arrested, when a deputy in the jail noticed she needed help.
The lawsuit claims the arrest violated her constitutional protections against excessive force and to have due process and also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
According to the lawsuit, forgetting to pay for items in stores is common among those with dementia. It also said Garner suffers from sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to communicate and understand what other people are saying.
In addition to her physical injuries, the lawsuit claims Garner now experiences fear, trauma and anxiety whenever she leaves her home.
‘What little freedom and happiness Ms. Garner enjoyed in her life as an elderly adult with declining mental health was, on June 26, 2020, recklessly and deliberately obliterated by the Loveland Police Department,’ it said.