Karen Garner case: Loveland police supervisors failed to properly investigate use of force

Three Loveland police supervisors failed to properly investigate an officer’s violent arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia two years ago, an outside analysis of the incident found.

Loveland officials on Friday released the findings of an investigation conducted by the Jensen Hughes auditing firm into how supervisors reviewed the June 26, 2020, arrest of Karen Garner.

Loveland City Manager Steve Adams at a news conference Friday said the department has changed how it investigates the use of force, including adding human resources and city attorney’s office employees to the review process. He said the city’s police department is committed to change and officers have undergone additional de-escalation and mental health training.

“We are sorry for what happened to Karen Garner,” Adams said. “We sincerely regret that this incident ever occurred and that officers in our department were responsible for how Ms. Garner was treated that day. We apologize.”

Garner was arrested by former Loveland police officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali after a Walmart employee reported she tried to walk out of a store with $13 of merchandise. During the arrest, Hopp forced her to the ground, handcuffed her and wrenched her arm backward. Garner repeatedly complained of shoulder pain while in a holding cell, but officers did not do anything to help her for nearly five hours.

Hopp dislocated Garner’s shoulder and fractured her arm. The assault significantly worsened Garner’s dementia symptoms and she was unable to live independently after the arrest, Garner’s family has said.

Hopp wrote in his use-of-force report that Garner received a potential shoulder injury, but that it was unclear whether she was injured during the arrest or while she was restrained. However, video of the booking area showed Hopp laughing about the popping noise Garner’s shoulder made while he arrested her.

The report by Jensen Hughes was completed Sept. 3, 2021, but the city could not release it until now due to legal reasons, Adams said. Hopp was sentenced in May to five years in prison for assaulting Garner and Jalali was sentenced in August to 45 days in jail for failing to stop him.

The Jensen Hughes investigation focused on the conduct of Sgt. Phil Metzler, Lt. Robert Schaffer and Assistant Chief Ray Butler. All three men reviewed the use of force in the weeks after the arrest and found it within policy.

Investigators found that Metzler, Schaffer and Butler failed to watch videos connected to the incident before approving Hopp’s use of force.

Metzler did not watch video of the booking area and should have recommended the incident for investigation due to the injuries he saw on scene, investigators found. Shaffer failed to watch video of the arrest before signing off on the report, though he did watch video of Garner complaining of shoulder pain while in the cell. Butler watched some video of the arrest but did not watch the booking area footage showing Garner complaining of pain before signing off on the report. Neither sought more information

Both Schaffer and Butler said they would’ve flagged the incident for further investigation had they watched all the videos.

“This behavior will not be tolerated in our Loveland Police Department,” Adams said.

Schaffer received a written warning and Butler received a verbal warning as discipline for their actions. Metzler resigned from the department on Sept. 22, 2021. Both Jalali and Hopp also resigned.

Investigators also found that Metzler changed the case number on his body-worn camera footage that showed a citizen at the scene of the arrest complaining about officers using excessive force. The change made it so the video would only be retained for one year instead of 10. The department discovered the video a week before it was deleted.

The outside firm also found that Metzler treated the citizen unprofessionally.

“Metzler’s demeanor with (the citizen) was disrespectful and discourteous,” the 42-page report states. “Metzler failed to hear out (the citizen) and talked over him multiple times. Metzler’s behavior was that of a bully.”

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