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The Colorado cops who brutally arrested a 73-year-old woman with dementia later fist-bumped about it, laughed at bodycam footage, and made clear they knew they’d dislocated her shoulder in the process of detaining her along the road where she’d been picking flowers.
“Did you hear the pop? When I had her pushed up against the car when you first got there?” Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp asked fellow cop Daria Jalali, according to a nearly hourlong video from the police station last June 26, that was posted online by an attorney for Karen Garner on Monday.
Hopp was seemingly referring to the moment—captured on now-viral body camera footage—when officers shoved Garner’s left arm upward, holding it in an unnatural position.
“I was like, ‘OK, you’re gonna play,” Hopp continued, according to the booking video from inside the station. “And I was pushing, pushing, pushing, and I hear [a popping noise]. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’”
“That’s going to turn into something,” Jalali said.
It did. About 10 months after the officers detained Garner, who was accused of shoplifting less than $14 worth of items from a Walmart after forgetting to pay, she filed a lawsuit against the city of Loveland and three cops involved in her arrest. In the aftermath of that complaint—which alleged that officers left the 80-pound woman bloodied, bruised, and with a dislocated shoulder despite her obvious distress—the police department announced on April 15 that it had placed Hopp on administrative leave, while Jalali and an on-scene supervisor, Sgt. Philip Metzler, were reassigned to administrative duties.
Loveland has also said it will bring in an outside, third-party group to investigate the incident, according to the Loveland Reporter-Herald. The Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation as well, according to the Denver Post. Because of those investigations, the Loveland Police Department told VICE News Monday that “independent comment from the Loveland Police Department would not be appropriate at this time. LPD has faith in the due process that this investigation allows for.”
After Garner’s case caused national outrage, her family hired a sound engineer to enhance audio on police surveillance footage from her arrest, resulting in the footage released Monday. They’ve also since added two more defendants—Community Service Officer Tyler Blackett and Sergeant Antolina Hill—to their complaint. And the disturbing video could add yet another layer to that probe by showing how officers seemingly joked about Garner’s condition, while also allegedly preventing her from accessing medical care for hours, according to the lawsuit.
“They failed Karen Garner. They failed the community. And they did it all on camera,” Sarah Schielke, the attorney representing Garner and her family, said in a statement Monday. “Do you realize how horrifying that is? That means they were used to getting away with it. That the comfortable norm in Loveland is one of zero accountability. That this is not just some ‘isolated incident.’ It is not just one single ‘problem.’”
“It is widespread, sociopathic criminality.”
In the same month when people were marching in the streets nationwide to demand police accountability after a Minneapolis cop fatally knelt on George Floyd’s neck, for example, Loveland police officers made light of Garner’s violent arrest and laughed at body-worn camera footage. Garner, meanwhile, was holed away in a cell at the police station, handcuffed to a bench and crying in pain, according to her lawsuit.
“I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old on the ground,” Hopp said.
“BlueTeam has it”
He later noted that “BlueTeam has it,” since he used force. This may refer to software that the police department implemented to compile information about use-of-force incidents. Reports to BlueTeam get a supervisory review within the department, according to the Reporter-Herald. But the Loveland Police Department said in a statement after Garner’s lawsuit was filed earlier this month that it “learned only on April 14 of the allegations surrounding her arrest.”
The video begins with officers carrying a hog-tied Garner into a cell as she repeatedly cries, “I was going to pay for it,” referring to the items she was accused of shoplifting that day.
Indeed, Garner attempted to hand Walmart employees her credit card after she was stopped with Pepsi, a candy bar, a T-shirt, and some stain remover, according to her lawsuit. By the time Hopp found her walking on the side of the road near the Walmart, she was allegedly carrying nothing but a handful of wildflowers and her small wallet.
After the officers shut the door on her cell, Hopp said he was worried she was “senile and stuff.” (Garner, aside from having dementia, also has sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to communicate and understand speech.)
An officer at one point asked: “Stupid question but I gotta ask, did you read her Miranda?” The question seems to refer to the constitutional requirement that officers warn people they have the right to remain silent and consult with an attorney before police questioning.
“Nope,” Hopp responded. “I did not.”
Later, he and Jalali recounted the events of the arrest, according to the video. They fist-bumped.
“I think we crushed it,” Hopp told Jalali.
Then, while watching Hopp’s body camera footage from the arrest, Hopp, Jalali, and Blackett laughed.
Jalali said that “bodycams are my favorite thing to watch,” although at one point she asked, “Can you stop it now?”
“Ready for the pop?” Hopp said.
“What’d you pop?” Blackett asked.
“I think it was her shoulder,” Hopp responded.
“I hate this,” Jalali said.
“I love it,” one of them responds.
Garner’s family is expected to release a written statement on the incident Tuesday, Schielke said. Her children have described her as “the ultimate home-making mom and grandma,” noting that she was very crafty. Now at a memory care facility, she still finds peace playing solitaire and doing crafts, though she’s become more withdrawn since the arrest.