DENVER – A police officer who pushed a 73-year-old Colorado woman with dementia to the ground after she left a store without paying for items worth about $14 is facing charges of using excessive force, while a second officer is accused of failing to stop or report his actions, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Austin Hopp is facing charges of second-degree assault, attempting to influence a public servant and official misconduct in last year's arrest of Karen Garner in Loveland, a city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver. Daria Jalali, who arrived after Garner was handcuffed, is facing charges of failing to report use of force, failing to intervene and official misconduct.
A person who answered the phone at the law firm representing Hopp said the office would not comment on the case. Court records did not list a lawyer for Jalali, and a telephone number listed for her did not work.
They were among three officers who resigned last month after a federal lawsuit filed by the woman's family and police video released by their lawyer triggered anger in the community and two independent investigations. The June 2020 arrest was captured on Hopp's body-worn camera, and the three officers also were shown talking about the arrest, laughing and joking in police station surveillance video.
The outcry over how Garner was treated comes amid a national reckoning over use of force by police, including against people with mental and physical health conditions.
Garner’s daughter, Allisa Swartz, said through tears that her mother is traumatized.
“You can see in the video how they’re laughing at my mom,” Swartz said at a news conference. “I feel like they think that they are above the law, and they are the ones who are supposed to be protecting all of us. I just want justice for my mom.”
The Garner family is relieved that charges will be filed, but more people should be held accountable, including Loveland Police Chief Robert Ticer, said family attorney Sarah Schielke. She said what happened was not something done by one rogue officer, but a reflection of systemic problems with the Police Department. She called for Ticer to resign.