The Loveland Police Department parted ways with three officers amid a lawsuit over the arrest and injury of a 73-year-old woman suffering dementia last June, Chief Robert Ticer announced at a news conference Friday morning.
Ticer confirmed Officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali and community service officer Tyler Blackett are no longer employed by the department, but declined to specify whether the officers resigned or have been fired. He said he was involved in the "process." A supervisor, Sgt. Philip Metzler, was placed on administrative leave last week, the agency has confirmed.
"Our goal at the Loveland Police Department has always been to make our community proud. We failed, and we are very sorry for that," Ticer said.
Ticer said Hopp had been with the Loveland Police department for about a year, and Jalali about three years.
Hopp and Jalali arrested Karen Garner last summer after she left a Walmart, forgetting to pay for less than $15 worth of items. Blackett assisted in transporting the woman to jail. A federal lawsuit alleges Hopp and Jalali forcefully subdued her, and Metzler – the supervising officer on the scene – brushed off a bystander’s complaint and approved of how Hopp and Jalali handled the incident.
Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder, broken bone in her arm, a sprained wrist, along with bruises and contusions. The lawsuit alleges Garner did not receive medical treatment for several hours after her arrest.
Ticer said the officers' treatment of Garner does not match the Loveland Police Department's values of integrity and trustworthiness.
"As the chief of police, my job here is to ensure that this process goes forward. But you're asking me as a human being what I thought, I share the community's concerns on this," Ticer said. "It hurt to see that. I've been in law enforcement 32 years, and what I saw on there hurt me personally."
As of Wednesday, the Loveland Police Department had placed the three officers and Metzler on administrative leave during an investigation into their treatment of Garner.
The department initially placed Hopp on administrative leave pending an internal investigation, and Jalali and Metzler were placed on desk duty. The department confirmed Wednesday it had placed Jalali, Metzler and Blackett -- which is not a sworn officer role -- on administrative leave as well.
Blackett has been accused of aiding Hopp and Jalali in transporting Garner out of the patrol car and mocking the incident with them, while Garner repeatedly said her wrist and shoulder hurt.
Garner suffers from cognitive decline, including dementia, that has limited her ability to communicate. During her arrest, one of the only things she could say was “I’m going home!” repeatedly, and complain that her shoulders and arm hurt.
Ticer said Friday morning serious bodily injury to someone during arrest should prompt notifying the district attorney's office and Critical Incident Response Team investigators. But he did not say how far up the chain of command the incident was initially reported, saying that question will be asked during an internal affairs investigation.
The attorney for Garner and her family, Sarah Schielke, has called for Ticer and Metzler to be fired.
An amended complaint filed late last week added Blackett and Sgt. Antolina Hill as defendants.
The amended complaint says Hill, who according to the complaint is a supervisor of Hopp, Jalali and Blackett, read Garner’s arrest affidavit prepared by Hopp and Jalali and was within earshot of Garner to hear her complaints about her shoulders hurting but ignored them. Hopp also told Hill directly about the force he used on Garner, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Hopp told other officers he heard the “pop” of Garner’s shoulder breaking and dislocating when he pushed Garner against his vehicle to subdue her.
Since filing the lawsuit, Schielke has released several videos showing the incident and the period Garner was in custody before getting taken to the hospital, which appear to corroborate claims made in the complaint about police conduct.
Ticer said officers undergo training for how to de-escalate situations and interact with people in crisis.
Fort Collins Police Services and the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have opened a criminal investigation into the officers’ conduct.
In a statement Monday, District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said, “The statements on the videos are very concerning. I will consider those statements – along with all relevant evidence compiled by the [Critical Incident Response Team] -- in making a charging decision.”