LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — The former Loveland police officer involved in the arrest of 73-year-old Karen Garner, a woman who suffers from dementia, was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday.
“I feel good about it because it (the sentence) will give him time to reflect on what he did,” Garner’s daughter, Monica Mitchell, said.
“I’m very proud that he got the sentence he got and he’s going to be changing. He’s going to come out a new man,” Garner’s daughter, Allisa Swartz, said.
Hopp spoke before the judge and the Garner family, telling them he wanted to apologize and that what he did was unjustifiable.
“I felt like his apology felt sincere. I know in that situation you feel remorse for what you’ve done but it’s a little late,” Garner’s son, John Steward, said.
Hopp said his life was in shambles at the time and he should not have been on the street. He took full responsibility for the assault.
Garner’s family called the plea deal decision “a slap in the face.”
How Loveland officers handled Garner’s arrest
The incident occurred on June 26, 2020, when Hopp arrested Garner who had been accused of stealing from Walmart. Garner, then 73, has dementia and according to the affidavit “indicated an obvious deficiency in Garner’s comprehension of her surroundings.”
Bodycam video obtained after a lawsuit was filed on Garner’s behalf showed Hopp, who can be heard saying, “Ma’am, I don’t think you want to play it this way,” as he appears to stop his patrol vehicle and approach Garner.
“You just left Walmart, do you need to be arrested right now?” Hopp asked.
“I’m going home,” Garner responded repeatedly.
Within a few seconds, she is on the ground being handcuffed and moments later a second officer arrives on scene.
Garner is walked to the patrol car in cuffs, repeatedly saying, “I’m going home.” Both officers take Garner out of the patrol vehicle, put her on the ground, and proceed to use restraints to tie her feet together.
Officers dislocated her shoulder and fractured her wrist, which is shown in the video along with the officers joking about the incident.
What happened after Garner’s arrest
Civil Rights Attorney Sarah Schielke filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Loveland Police Department and three officers in the arrest on April 14, 2021. The lawsuit claimed violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as claims against the Loveland Police Department for failing to train regarding the use of force on disabled, unarmed citizens.
The City of Loveland said in September last year that it will pay Garner $3 million to settle the claim.
“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,” Loveland City Manager Steve Adams said after the settlement announcement.
After Hopp accepted the plea deal, the district attorney on the case made this statement:
“What we achieved here today is a result I know the community will be proud of. We take victims’ input very seriously, but this deal, I think, is in the best interest of justice for the community. It ensures accountability,” Larimer County District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said.
Loveland Police Department changes after the arrest
Sergeant Phil Metzler, who was on the scene following Garner’s arrest, resigned in September 2021. Metzler’s body camera video, shared by Schielke, showed a conversation between a witness and Metzler about the incident.
A second officer, Daria Jalali, arrived on the scene during Garner’s arrest and was charged with failing to intervene and failing to report the use of force.
Both Hopp and Jalali resigned from LPD shortly after they were charged.
The chief of the department at the time of Garner’s arrest, Bob Ticer, accepted the role of chief of the Prescott Valley Police Department and left in early April. Deputy Chief Eric Stewart stepped in as interim chief upon his departure.
Stewart released this statement after Hopp’s sentencing:
“The Loveland Police Department is grateful for the District Attorney’s diligence and pursuit of due process during this very important case. While this will not change the terrible treatment Ms. Garner experienced, we hope that this sentence can bring some measure of justice to her and her family.”