Updated Thursday, May 20 / 5:19 p.m.
Family of the 73-year-old woman with dementia who was violently arrested last year by two former Loveland police officers say that day has changed her completely.
“She doesn't smile, since then, she just is so overwhelmed,” said Shannon Steward, Garner’s daughter-in-law. “We've talked to her caretakers about PTSD from all of this, and it has truly changed the progression of how her dementia was going.”
On Wednesday, the former officers involved have been criminally charged and have warrants out for their arrest.
On Thursday, Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali turned themselves in to the police department, and their bonds were set at $20,000 and $5,000, respectively. Hopp is expected to appear in court on May 25.
Loveland District Attorney concluded his office’s investigation, but there is an investigation ongoing into the department and a civil rights lawsuit against the department and officers involved in Garner’s arrest.
“I was able to review dozens of witnesses, interviews, scores of records, phone calls, reports, and photographs, hours of audio and video, and a host of additional evidence, which led me to the decisions I'm making here today,” said Gordon McLaughlin, district attorney for the Eighth Judicial District of Colorado.
Some of the charges against the officers stem from Colorado's new police accountability bill.
Hopp was charged with assault in the second degree for causing serious bodily injury to an at-risk victim, attempting to influence a public servant, both of which are felonies, and official misconduct, a misdemeanor. It was 26 seconds after Hopp got out of his car that he forced Garner to the ground, according to his arrest affidavit.
Jalali was charged with failure to report excessive use of force, failure to intervene in a use of excessive force and official misconduct, all misdemeanors.
The first two of Jalali charges are the result of new criminal statutes passed in Senate Bill 271, the police accountability bill. McLaughlin said without those new provisions, the case would have been harder to prosecute.
“I believe this decision speaks clearly to our community. That accountability will be achieved through our independent, critical incident response team process,” McLaughlin said. “And I hope today can be a step towards rebuilding trust between the criminal justice community and the Larimer County community, as well as seeking justice for Ms. Garner's family.”
State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver, a sponsor of the bill on law enforcement integrity, said in a statement that the arrest of Garner was horrific and should have never happened.
“While I have concerns with how this internal investigation was handled, these charges are clearly appropriate. They demonstrate just how important it was for us to pass police accountability legislation last year, and they show Colorado’s reforms are working,” Herod said. “Because of our actions, these officers will now have to answer to the courts.”
“This is a start, but it is not enough. The family feels immense relief that the DA’s office has charged some of these criminals with crimes,” said Schielke in a statement. “But we’ve all seen the same videos. And so ultimately the DA’s office to stop at Hopp and Jalali is a decision that leaves this family with more questions than answers.”
Garner’s family said more needs to be done by the department and prosecutors.
“I feel like the lack of empathy and the action of the officers that were involved wasn't just only affecting my mom and my family, it's also affecting this whole city of Loveland,” said Garner’s daughter, Allisa Swartz, at a press conference hosted by Garner’s lawyer. “I feel like they think that they're above the law and they are the ones that are supposed to be protecting all of us. I just want justice for my mom.”
Loveland police are undergoing trainings for Alzheimer's awareness and deescalation.
The majority of police officers at the Loveland Police Department have now gone through Alzheimer’s awareness training, said Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer during a separate press conference. Some of the officers will also undergo deescalation training as well as crisis intervention training.
Since the beginning of the year, an assistant attorney with the city has been reviewing cases in which police officers used force and is also looking at cases dating back to 2019.
“This will be for all use of force cases moving forward,” Ticer said. “This extra layer of scrutiny is important to not only our department, but to the community. The community that we serve to ensure the policies and laws are being followed.”
Ticer said he learned of the incident on April 14, when his department was notified of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by attorney Sarah Schielke from The Life and Liberty Law Office. He said if he had known at the time, the same protocols would have been instituted a year ago. Part of the further independent investigation into the department will look into why the department didn’t know about the forceful arrest when it happened among other things.
“I was not surprised by the charges,” Ticer said. “Our reaction is extreme disappointment and as a community and as a police department and as human beings here we’re very upset by it.
Garner suffered a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder during the arrest, according to a lawsuit filed against the police department on behalf of Garner. In photos from a press release, the back of Garner’s arms and her wrists were badly bruised.
“This is not an excessive force case. It's torture in broad daylight by multiple officers, some of them in supervisory capacities,” Schielke said. “Multiple individuals at this police department watched what Hopp and Jalali did. And all of those individuals did nothing about it.”
Garner's family and lawyer still want more justice.
The District Attorney’s office announced the charges Wednesday during a press conference with Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, whose department led the Critical Incident Response Team independent investigation of the arrest.
Two detectives and one detective sergeant led the investigation, which took just under a month to complete.
“I want to take just a moment to thank the detectives who left no stone unturned in this case,” Swoboda said during the press conference. “Investigations are generally more difficult anytime there's a delay between the incident and the investigation. However, the professionalism, the skill, of these detectives have produced a report that clearly outlines exactly what occurred that day.”
Garner’s lawyer asked why only two officers were charged, rather than all of the officers involved in her arrest and subsequent lack of medical attention at the jail.
“At the horrible core of this case has always been the question of how this criminal conduct occurred right in the open in downtown Loveland,” Schielke said. “It then carried on right into the open back at the Loveland police department.”
Sgt. Philip Metzler arrived on the scene of the arrest after Garner was put in the police car. On body camera footage, Metzler asked about the mud and blood on Jalali who responded: “A little bloody, a little muddy; you know how it goes,” adding that it was Garner’s blood.
Schielke said that Metzler as well as Sgt. Antolina Hill and community service officer Tyler Blackett, who each assisted in booking Garner, should also be charged for their roles in the case. Blackett resigned, but Metzler is on leave and Hill is still in her post.
“More importantly, how and why the entire old guard that laid the foundation for this extended multi-hour torture event to occur — not just the chief, the city manager, the city council — how it is that all of these people still believe they are qualified to stay in those positions,” Schielke said. “The city of Loveland, the family continues to anxiously await answers to any of that.”
Garner was arrested in June 2020 after she left a local Walmart without paying for a T-shirt, soda, candy and wipe-refills, totaling $13.88 according to the suit. Walmart employees stopped her as she left the store and retrieved the items but did not let Garner pay for them.
As she was walking home picking wildflowers, Hopp stopped her and approached her. When she turned away from him and indicated she did not understand him, he grabbed her and pushed her to the ground. Court documents say Hopp “violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her.”
Garner’s daughter held purple flowers, in honor of dementia patients and her mother, in her hands during the press conference hosted by Garner’s lawyer.
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