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Woman with Dementia Sues Loveland Police Department Over Excessive Force Allegations

— April 17, 2021

The Loveland Police Department was recently hit with a discrimination lawsuit after using excessive force to arrest a woman with dementia.

A federal civil rights lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of a 73-year-old woman with dementia who claims she was “handcuffed and pushed to the ground after she was accused of shoplifting.” The suit was filed against the Loveland Police Department and alleges the police department and officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalabi and Sgt. Phil Metzler used excessive force on the woman, Karen Garner.

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Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash

Shortly after the alleged incident, Hopp was placed on administrative leave while a police investigation looks into what happened. Jalabi and Metzler were “reassigned to administrative duties,” according to the department. In addition, “Loveland City Council members called for a review of police department policies on Thursday.” In a statement, the 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.”

What happened, though? Well, back on June 26, 2020, Garner was accused “of not paying for $13.88 in items.” It states, “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.”

A Walmart spokesperson stated:

“We stopped Ms. Garner after noticing her attempt to take merchandise from the store without paying for it…When we addressed this issue directly with her the situation escalated when she forcibly removed an associate’s face mask and fled the store. The police were called only after Ms. Garner became physical with an associate.”

Police arrived as Garner was leaving the store. The lawsuit includes police body camera footage, in which Hopp can be heard saying, “Ma’am, I don’t think you want to play it this way.” From there, he stopped his patrol vehicle and approached Garner. He then said, “You just left Walmart, do you need to be arrested right now?” Garner responded, “I’m going home.”

Soon after, she was handcuffed and forced to the ground. 

After looking at the video footage, former Denver police Lt. James Ponzi, a 35-year veteran of law enforcement, said, “It looks bad…you’re a big guy…you’re taking a little old lady down to the ground.”

Jalali helped with the arrest and Metzler allegedly directed that “Garner be denied access to medical care for her injuries afterward.” To make matters worse, the suit claims Garner was “handcuffed to a cell at the police department for more than two hours.” From there, she was “transferred to the Larimer County Jail where she remained for another three hours without medical treatment.

As a result of her ordeal, Garner suffered a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder. Her suit is seeking unspecified damages and argues the police department violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit claims Garner suffers from sensory aphasia and dementia, “which impairs her ability to communicate and understand.”

The Larimer County District Attorney’s Office issued the following statement:

“Our office is committed to fair and professional reviews of alleged excessive use of force…After further review, the District Attorney’s Office will consider whether an independent criminal investigation is warranted.”


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