Arrest warrants have been issued for two former Colorado police officers in connection with the violent arrest last year of a 73-year-old woman with dementia, a top prosecutor said Wednesday afternoon.
Former Loveland police officer Austin Hopp has been charged with two felonies: assault in the second degree causing serious bodily injury to an at-risk victim, and attempts to influence a public servant. Hopp was also charged with first-degree official misconduct, a misdemeanor, said Gordon McLaughlin, district attorney for the Eighth Judicial District of Colorado.
Daria Jalali, another former Loveland police officer, was charged with three misdemeanors: failure to perform the duty to report an excessive use of force, failure to perform the duty to intervene in an excessive use of force, and first-degree official misconduct, according to the district attorney.
Karen Garner was arrested last June after walking out of a Walmart with $13.88 worth of items, according to a lawsuit filed last month by her family.
Police were called and the arrest left Garner with multiple injuries, including a broken humerus, a dislocated shoulder and a sprained wrist, according to the lawsuit.
“While peace officers are permitted to use reasonable force to effect an arrest, the investigation in this case showed that Austin Hopp used excessive force in the arrest of Miss Garner, and that resulted in serious bodily injury to Miss Garner,” McLaughlin said.
Jalali did not to live up to her duties to intervene or report Hopp’s conduct, the district attorney continued.
Hopp also tried to thwart the investigation of his conduct through “substantial omissions” in his statements about the incident, the DA said.
CNN reached out to the police union for comment but didn’t get an immediate reply. It is unclear whether the former officers have attorneys.
Sarah Schielke, an attorney for Garner and her family, said she was angry there were only two officers charged and only six charges against them.
“That is a start, but it’s not good enough,” she said.
Speaking about the body camera footage of Garner’s arrest as well as a second video showing officers later fist-bumping and laughing at the police station as they watched footage of the incident, Schielke questioned how other officers aren’t facing similar charges.
“How could something like this have gone on to be celebrated, laughed about, reviewed by multiple levels of supervisors and chain of command, and then swept under the rug for nearly a year?” Schielke asked. “It is not satisfactory to this family, or to the community at large.”
Garner’s daughter Allisa Swartz fought tears as she spoke to reporters and called for more charges.
“You can see in the video while they’re laughing at my mom, and they’re making fun of her, and it feels like they’re hiding behind this department. I feel like they think they’re above the law,” Swartz said. “And they’re the ones that are supposed to be protecting all of us. I just want justice for my mom.”
Swartz said they were able to visit Garner for Mother’s Day, and said she still appears “scared and traumatized.”
Chief endorses charging decisions
Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer said he supported the charges and that members of the department were very upset by what Hopp and Jalali were accused of.
“Their actions and attitudes are in direct contrast to the culture we strive to achieve here at the Loveland Police Department,” he said at a separate news conference. “We understand the desire for accountability and justice, and we are seeing that today for Miss Garner, with the charges being filed by the district attorney’s office.”
McLaughlin said he became aware of the June 2020 arrest on April 15, and that he viewed the footage of Garner’s arrest for the first time the next day.
He initiated the independent investigation April 17. The district attorney added he met with Garner’s family to discuss the charges before addressing the media.
Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said his department was asked April 19 to be the lead investigative agency. After conducting dozens of interviews, viewing and transcribing hours of video, and poring over police and medical reports, they presented McLaughlin with a 700-page report Monday.
“I can tell you that all parties involved took this extremely seriously, and are aware that the results reached, whatever those ended up being, were going to be consequential to this community,” McLaughlin said.
Hopp and Jalali were placed on administrative leave in April, and Ticer said at an April 30 news conference that both officers — along with community service officer Tyler Blackett, who was also seen watching the body camera video at the station — were no longer with the department. Police spokesman Tom Hacker told CNN the three officers resigned.
Hopp had been with the department for one year and Jalali for three years, Ticer said in April.
McLaughlin said he had indications both officers planned to turn themselves in to authorities, but he said he was unaware whether that took place before he spoke to reporters.
Ticer said his department has taken a number of actions since becoming aware of the circumstances surrounding Garner’s arrest, including requesting an independent third-party internal affairs investigation, overseen by the city’s human resources department.
He also said the majority of his officers have undergone Alzheimer’s awareness training. “This began within a week of my learning about how Miss Garner was treated,” Ticer said.
Bodycam footage ‘is like live TV,’ officers say
Part of the video included in the family’s lawsuit was shot in the Loveland Police Department’s booking area shortly after Garner’s arrest.
In the video, Hopp gave Jalali a fist bump when asked how the arrest went.
“Well, I thought it went great,” Hopp said, adding, “I think we crushed it.”
Later in the video, as officers began watching, Jalali, who assisted in the arrest, said body camera footage was “like live TV.”
Blackett responded, “the bodycam show,” as someone giggled.
“Bodycams are my favorite thing to watch. I could watch livestream bodycams all day,” Jalali said.
As the three continued watching, it appeared Jalali became uncomfortable with the video.
“Can you stop it now?” she asked.
“What?” Hopp responded.
According to a YouTube transcription of the video, Hopp then asked, “Are you ready for the pop?” as Jalali covered her ears.
“Hear the pop?” Hopp asked.
The pop referred to something in the video but it’s unclear what.
“I hate this,” Jalali said.
“This is great,” Hopp responded.
“I hate it,” Jalali said.
“I love it,” Hopp said.
Viewing of the video and the conversations about it took place as Garner was 10 feet away in a cell, Schielke has said. Garner remained in that cell for two and a half hours, the lawsuit said, until she was taken to a hospital.