The 73-year-old woman, who has dementia, suffered fractures and sprains after being thrown on the ground by Loveland Police officers–all for allegedly stealing $14 worth of items from a local Wal-Mart.
A recently filed civil rights lawsuit alleges that three Loveland, Colorado, police officers used excessive force while arresting a 73-year-old woman accused of shoplifting from a local Wal-Mart.
According to CNN, the lawsuit was filed April 14th. In it, attorneys for Karen Garner claim their client was forcibly arrested last June after Wal-Mart employees told authorities they suspected she was trying to steal from the store.
When three Loveland police officers approached Garner, she was clutching her wallet, a sprig of wildflowers, and several low-value items from Wal-Mart.
Garner, who has been diagnosed with dementia, appeared visibly confused and upset.
While Garner repeatedly insisted that she simply wished to go home, officers grew increasingly agitated—and aggressive. Scarcely seconds after police arrived, Garner was thrown on the ground and handcuffed.
Officers also chastised a bystander who tried to speak up against their excessive use of force—believing that the small, frail Garner was a child.
But Officer Austin Hopp silenced him, telling him to mind his own business.
“She’s not a little kid,” Hopp said. “I have to use force to safely detain her, that’s what this is. This isn’t just some random act of aggression.”
“Before you go to a snap judgment,” Hopp said, “you’ve got to get all of the facts.”
Several minutes after Hopp’s interaction with the eyewitness, a Loveland police sergeant arrived and observed that the officers were covered in mud.
“A little bloody, a little muddy,” a female officer replied, “that’s how it works.”
The female officer than confirmed the blood stains present on her uniform had come from Garner.
Garner allegedly suffered severe injuries during the arrest, including a broken humerus, dislocated shoulder, and sprained wrist.
Garner, states the lawsuit, should not have posed or been perceived as a threat—she is five feet tall and weighs only 80 pounds.
Garner was later brought up on charges of shoplifting, although the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Court dismissed them.
Responding to news of the lawsuit in a statement, a spokesperson for the D.A. said that “no investigation regarding any improper use of force has been presented to our office.”
The same spokesperson added that the district attorney plans to review the body-cam footage; they will then consider whether an independent investigation is warranted.
The complaint adds that Garner was arrested for allegedly stealing items valued at $14. Garner had purportedly wandered beyond Wal-Mart’s registers when she was confronted by employees. But when Garner offered to pay for the items, they refused and tried to detain her.
One of the officers involved in Garner’s arrest has been placed on administrative leave, while the other two have been reassigned to office work.
“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 Loveland Police Department said in a statement.
Notably, the Loveland Police Department did not take any action against any of the involved officers until Garner’s attorneys filed their lawsuit.