The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ex-officer sentenced to 5 years for violent arrest of 73-year-old woman

Loveland, Colo., Police Department body-camera video from June 26, 2020, shows the violent arrest of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old with dementia. (Video: The Life & Liberty Law Office)
Placeholder while article actions load

Almost two years after manhandling a 73-year-old woman with dementia, breaking her arm and celebrating the arrest with colleagues, former Loveland, Colo., police officer Austin Hopp is going to prison.

Hopp, who pleaded guilty to a second-degree assault charge in March, was sentenced on Thursday to five years behind bars, with three years of parole to follow. He faced up to eight years in prison.

During the hearing, Larimer County District Judge Michelle Brinegar called Hopp’s actions toward the victim, Karen Garner, “deliberate, deceitful and calculated,” according to the Denver Post.

“This case is not about a mistake,” Brinegar said, according to the paper. “This [is] about a young officer who used his position of power and authority to show off his toughness, disregarded any sense of humanity and showed an alarming deal of criminal thinking.”

After violently arresting woman, 73, with dementia, police laughed about it, video shows: ‘We crushed it’

Hopp apologized in court and accepted responsibility for how he handled Garner’s arrest, the newspaper reported.

“I am truly ashamed of my actions,” Hopp said.

On June 26, 2020, employees at a Walmart in Loveland, a town about 50 miles north of Denver, called police to report that an elderly woman had walked out with about $14 worth of items. Employees caught up with her outside the store and took the items back. Garner left the store and started home.

She was strolling through a field, picking wildflowers, when Hopp, who was responding to the store’s call for help, approached her and, within seconds, moved to arrest her, body-camera footage shows. But Garner kept walking, a bundle of flowers in her hands.

“I don’t think you want to play it this way,” Hopp said. “ … Do you need to be arrested right now?”

The officer then grabbed Garner, who weighed 80 pounds, wrenching her arms back, video showed. For the next several minutes, she cried out that she was “going home.” Hopp then wrangled Garner to the ground. As a result, she had a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder.

Soon, another officer, Daria Jalali, arrived and helped Hopp restrain Garner.

The officers then took Garner to the police station. Security footage released by Garner’s attorney last year shows Hopp and others watching the body-cam footage from when Garner was detained.

“Ready for the pop? Hear the pop?” Hopp can be heard saying, referring to the sound Garner’s shoulder made when he brought her to the ground.

The officers also mocked Garner, calling her “ancient” and “senile,” and said the arrest “went great” and that they had “crushed it.” Meanwhile, Garner sat in a booking cell crying in pain.

In April 2021, prosecutors announced they were pursuing the case after Sarah Schielke, an attorney representing Garner’s family, released the body-camera footage, causing a public outcry. Hopp was soon suspended from the Loveland Police Department. That May, he was arrested and charged with using excessive force and misleading his supervisors. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

A woman with dementia was violently detained before police mocked her arrest. A Colorado city must now pay $3M.

Jalali, the other officer at the scene, was charged with failure to report use of force, failure to intervene and official misconduct. Her case is ongoing.

Garner’s family sued the city and several police officers and won a $3 million settlement in September. The city issued a public apology to Garner and her family for “what they have endured as a result of this arrest,” Loveland City Manager Steve Adams said in a statement.

Garner’s health has declined since the assault, her family told reporters after reaching the settlement. Garner, who has dementia and sensory aphasia, a condition that impairs her ability to communicate or fully understand speech, now has post-traumatic stress disorder. Her family said she has retreated, hesitates to hug loved ones and no longer goes on walks, which she once enjoyed.

The family’s attorney did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment early Friday.

Andrea Salcedo contributed to this report.

Loading...