A Loveland law office has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Loveland Police Department over the arrest of a 73-year-old Loveland woman last summer that the woman’s attorney called “a nightmare.”
According to a press release from attorney Sarah Schielke, the Life and Liberty Law Office filed the lawsuit and initiated the case Wednesday, alleging excessive use of force against the department and officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali and Sgt. Phil Metzler for the arrest of Karen Garner on June 26, 2020.
The arrest left Garner with a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder, the suit says.
The suit includes claims for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and targets Loveland’s “failures to train regarding the use of force on disabled unarmed citizens.”
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Loveland Police Department had not provided an official comment on the case.
The suit alleges that Garner, who is 5 feet tall and weighs 80 pounds, suffered a fractured upper arm and dislocated shoulder, along with other injuries.
According to the suit, in the late afternoon of June 26, 2020, Hopp “violently assaulted Garner without provocation” as she was walking home from the east Loveland Walmart.
The suit says Garner suffers from dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to communicate and understand. She had left the store at 1325 N. Denver Ave. without paying for $13.38 worth of items, according to the suit. Employees stopped her at the exit to retrieve the items but reportedly refused to let her pay for them.
Then as she walked home, according to the suit, Garner was stopped by Hopp, who called out to her to stop and talk to him. When she indicated she did not understand him, Hopp restrained Garner, with court documents saying he “violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her.”
Jalali then assisted Hopp with the arrest. Metzler, who later appeared on scene, approved of the arrest, the lawsuit says, and directed that Garner “be denied access to medical care for her injuries afterward,” according to the suit.
Video of Garner leaving the Walmart as well as body camera footage of the arrest can be found in a YouTube video posted by the law office. In the video, Metzler can be heard asking about the mud and blood on Jalali, to which she responds: “A little bloody, a little muddy; you know how it goes,” adding that it was Garner’s blood.
Body camera footage of the arrest can be found at a Dropbox link provided by Schielke.
“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 release sent by the law office also claims that none of the officers involved in the incident has been disciplined. According to Tom Hacker, spokesman for the Loveland Police Department, no complaint has arisen from the incident and that “disciplinary action could only come after the investigation of a complaint concludes.”
According to the lawsuit, Garner suffered a fractured upper arm, dislocated shoulder and sprained wrist in addition to scrapes to her face, a bloody nose and bruises to her knees.
The video and court documents also allege that following her arrest, Garner was held at the department for several hours while crying out in pain. Loveland police later took Garner to the Larimer County Jail in Fort Collins and, according to the complaint, did not provide jail deputies with any explanation or mention that Garner had “complained of pain, been involved in a severe use-of-force incident, was obviously mentally ill, and clearly needed medical evaluation before being further isolated in a cell.”
Schielke said that in going through the information and facts of the case, she is concerned for other elderly or disabled people in Loveland.
“Arrest and injure and criminally charge first and ask questions never is apparently how they do it at Loveland,” she said.
Hacker said the department had just learned about “the incident” Wednesday afternoon through a Facebook post and is investigating it.
He said it is department policy to refrain from comment on pending litigation.
Schielke said she expects that a judge in the next few days will set a first court date, possibly for about six weeks from now.
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