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Colorado city agrees to $3 million settlement over violent arrest of woman with dementia

Two former police officers have been criminally charged in the arrest of Karen Garner, who has dementia, last year.
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The city of Loveland, Colorado, has agreed to a $3 million settlement over the violent arrest of a woman with dementia last year, the city said Wednesday.

"There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner," Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer said in a statement announcing the settlement, which has yet to be finalized.

The woman, Karen Garner, 73, was walking home when she was forced to the ground and handcuffed by police June 26, 2020, after she was stopped on suspicion of trying to steal $13.88 worth of items from a Walmart.

She had a dislocated shoulder, a fractured arm and a sprained wrist after the incident, according to a lawsuit filed on her behalf.

Garner has dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to verbally communicate and understand others' communications, her attorney has said. Garner forgot to pay for the items, which were retrieved by employees, according to her attorney.

Garner's attorney, Sarah Schielke, said that the incident was a "horrific assault" and that Garner was denied medical care for hours. The settlement will help pay for Garner's care, her family said.

"It's good to know that we can keep her in care and have her cared for, but there needs to be some change in this department," her daughter, Allisa Swartz, said at a news conference Wednesday. "I don't want to see this happen to anyone else's family again."

Although the civil lawsuit with Loveland is nearly settled, two former officers face criminal charges. "Both parties have agreed that settlement without the admission of liability prevents further litigation and is in the best interest of all involved," the city said in a statement Wednesday.

Two former police officers involved in the arrest, Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali, were criminally charged in May.

Hopp was charged with assault causing serious bodily injury, official misconduct and attempting to influence a public servant.

At a court hearing last month to weigh the evidence, his attorney, Jonathan Datz, argued that Hopp's supervisors determined his actions to be acceptable, the Loveland Reporter-Herald reported.

Jalali was charged with failure to report use of force, failure to intervene and official misconduct. Jalali has not commented publicly.

City Manager Steve Adams said in a statement that the settlement agreement "does not upend the work we have left to do."

"We know we did not act in a manner that upholds the values, integrity, and policies of the City and police department, and we are taking the necessary steps to make sure these actions are never repeated," Adams said.

The announcement came a day after the death of 19-year-old, who was armed with a knife and in a reported mental health crisis when a Loveland police officer shot him last month.

Ticer, the police chief, has said his officers underwent Alzheimer's awareness training and would undergo additional de-escalation training.

He said Wednesday that changes have been made to more quickly review instances when officers use force and that the police department is working to expand a "mental health co-responder program" in which clinicians work with police on calls that involve people in crisis or who need help.