Former Loveland police officer pleads guilty to assaulting dementia patient Karen Garner

Paolo Zialcita/CPR
The Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins on Wednesday, March 3, 2022.

A former Loveland police officer accused of injuring an elderly woman during an arrest in 2020 has accepted a plea deal from the Larimer County district attorney.

Austin Hopp arrested Karen Garner, who suffers from dementia, near a Loveland Walmart in June 2020. Workers had called police to report that Garner left the store without paying for some small items, and officers approached her as she picked flowers along the side of a nearby road. 

Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and bruises while being forced to the ground. Officers were later recorded laughing at her injuries. According to her family, she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hopp appeared in Larimer County Court Wednesday, where he pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge that can carry 2 to 8 years in prison. That would be a significantly shorter sentence than the 10 to 30-plus years he could have faced if found guilty of his additional charges, which include official misconduct. 

Garner’s family did not approve of District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin’s decision to offer a plea deal. 

“I’m very disappointed, we’ve gone so far,” Garner’s son John Steward said in front of the Larimer County Justice Center. “There’s so much evidence that should be going to trial. We don’t understand the reason things happened the way they do.”

McLaughlin defended the decision, but he did not explain why he went against the family’s request to let a jury try the case.

“We take victims’ input very seriously, but this deal I think is in the best interest of justice for the community,” he said. 

Hopp declined to comment on the nature of his plea deal. He will appear again in May for sentencing. 

Daria Jalali, Hopp’s former partner, faces smaller charges for her role in Garner’s arrest and injuries. She’s been charged with three misdemeanors, including failure to intervene, but her court dates have been continually pushed back. 

Garner’s family settled a civil lawsuit with the City of Loveland for $3 million dollars in September. They called on Loveland police Chief Bob Ticer to resign following Garner's arrest, but Ticer said he would not step down. He announced Monday that he'd accepted a new job leading the police department in Prescott Valley, Arizona.