LOVELAND, Colo. — The City of Loveland in Colorado and Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia who was violently arrested in June 2020, have agreed to settle her claim against the city for $3 million.
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident on June 26, 2020, when police were called out to a report of shoplifting at a Loveland Walmart, and while arresting Garner, the officers broke her arm and dislocated her shoulder in the process. In April, the department announced the involved officers — Officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali — were no longer with the department, but the police chief has not said if they resigned or were fired.
The settlement, which was announced Wednesday morning and is almost finalized, ends Garner's pending federal lawsuit, but the two former officers still face criminal charges.
Both the city and Garner agreed the settlement was in the best interest of everybody involved, the city said in a press release.
Loveland City Manager Steve Adams said this will help bring some closure, but there is still work 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,” Adams said. “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.”
The settlement came less than 24 hours after new records released by Garner's attorney showed a sergeant, lieutenant, and the assistant chief of police at the police department all signed off on the force used against Garner. All of those individuals are still employed with the department, and Attorney Sarah Schielke called for them, as well as the police chief, to resign.
“He presided over all of this, which we see includes not just the criminally charged Hopp’s behavior, but all of Hopp’s supervisors up the chain of command seeing the recorded assault and approving of it,” Schielke said in a statement Tuesday.
Schielke and members of Garner's family held a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday regarding the settlement.
At the presser, the family said a years-old letter from Garner — where she wrote, "Look out the front window. Don't dwell on what's in the rear view mirror" — solidified their decision that a settlement was the best option for them.
While the settlement brings an amount of justice to Garner's family, it is not full, Schielke said. She said that will come when every person involved in the incident, or who fostered a culture that made the incident possible, is held accountable.
On Wednesday morning, Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer said there was no excuse for what happened to Garner.
"We have agreed on steps we need to take to begin building back trust," he said in a statement. "While these actions won’t change what Ms. Garner experienced, they will serve to improve this police department and hopefully restore faith that the LPD exists to serve those who live in and visit Loveland."
Those changes to department policy include:
- Updated and improved use-of-force review process that will include faster response times and review by an assistant city attorney as well as City of Loveland Human Resources personnel
- Plans to launch "LPD Listens" tours as an opportunity for city residents to share and engage with Loveland Police Department command staff
- Collaboration with City Council on ways to expand and enhance LPD’s mental health co-responder program with SummitStone Health Partners
The city said it is moving forward with additional efforts to increase its transparency and accountability:
- Results from an independent professional standards investigation into Garner's arrest, led by consulting group Hillard Heintze (a Jensen Hughes company), will be released once all internal processes. This is expected within "several months," the city said, and will be released publicly
- A virtual town hall and listening session led by Jensen Hughes is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 16. The team will outline its independent operational assessment of the Loveland Police Department and listen to attendees' perspectives. Click here to register.
- The city is seeking applicants for the 16-member Ad Hoc Community Trust Commission to serve as an advisory body to the city manager and City Council regarding trust and respect between community members and its local government. To learn more and apply, click here and scroll down to the box that reads, "Ad Hoc Community Trust Commission." The deadline to apply is Sept. 12.
This story was originally published by Stephanie Butzer at KMGH.