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City of Loveland, Family of Karen Garner Settle Police Brutality Suit for $3M

— September 10, 2021

The city of Loveland and the family of Karen Garner recently agreed to settle a lawsuit filed back in 2020.

The family of Karen Garner recently agreed to a $3 million settlement with the city of Loveland, ending a civil suit filed after Garner was forcibly arrested in June 2020. The body camera footage from the arrest alarmed people across the country and showed “former Loveland Police Department officer Austin Hopp forcibly detain the then 73-year-old woman after staff at a Loveland Walmart accused her of attempting to leave the store with items she hadn’t paid for.”

A police officer wearing a body camera. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user:Ryan Johnson. (CCA-BY-2.0).

What the officer didn’t know was that Garner had dementia and the force used during the arrest was wholly unwarranted. As a result of the incident, Garner suffered a handful of injuries. Hopp is currently facing criminal charges, including second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury due to those injuries. Additionally, Hopp has also been terminated from the Loveland Police Department, along with former officer Daria Jalali and former community service officer Tyler Blackett for their roles in the arrest.

When commenting on the recent settlement, attorney Sarah Schielke said:

“The amount of this settlement is likely record-breaking for a civil rights case that doesn’t involve death or permanent disfigurement.”

Garner’s daughter, Allisa Swartz, chimed in and said, “The settlement will help fund the 24/7 care that we have her in, and that will be a big help towards that care.”

Why did the family decide to settle the case now? It’s simple. They wanted Garner to be able to “benefit from the proceeds immediately.” They acknowledged that court proceedings can take time, perhaps even several years. Garner’s condition and quality of life could deteriorate a lot over that time. Today, she has yet to speak much about the incident, “and her caregivers have told her family members not to bring it up,” according to Swartz.

Despite the settlement, Schielke is calling for a change in leadership at the Loveland Police Department. She said this change “is the only way to begin fixing a culture of police officers who have no respect, no care, no compassion for the people they’re supposed to be keeping safe. A culture of police officers who back one another before they stand up for a vulnerable citizen they’re supposed to protect.” She further noted that this wasn’t the first time city police officers were accused of using excessive force. Just last month, a mentally ill teenager was shot in his backyard.

Loveland City Manager Steve Adams issued the following statement shortly after the settlement announcement:

“The settlement with Karen Garner will help bring some closure to an unfortunate event in our community but does not upend the work we have left to do. We extend a deep and heartfelt apology to Karen Garner and her family for what they have endured as a result of this arrest…We know we did not act in a manner that upholds the values, integrity, and policies of the City and police department, and we are taking the necessary steps to make sure these actions are never repeated.”


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