Loveland, CO – A former Loveland police officer has pleaded guilty to having assaulted a 73-year-old woman with dementia during her arrest in 2020.
Former Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp accepted a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault in Larimer County District Court on Wednesday, according to the Denver Post.
He was originally charged with felony assault of an at-risk victim, which carried a potential maximum of 32 years in prison, according to the Loveland Reporter Herald.
Additional charges of misdemeanor misconduct and felony attempting to influence a pubic servant will also be dismissed as part of the agreement.
Hopp faces a maximum of eight years behind bars for the lesser felony assault charge and could also be sentenced to probation.
“It’s not 32 years, but it’s accountability,” Assistant District Attorney Matthew Maillaro told the Loveland Reporter Herald.
Shannon Steward, the spokesperson for the family of the 73-year-old victim, Karen Garner, said they did not support the plea agreement and begged the judge to reject it.
They said the former officer deserved to go to jury trial.
Steward said Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm during the encounter, was denied medical help, and that Hopp laughed about her injuries in a video after the assault, the Loveland Reporter Herald reported.
“She had pleas that were ignored,” she told reporters outside the courthouse on Wednesday. “And we have to come here today to honor him for this plea deal. It’s a slap in the face.”
Eighth Judicial District Judge Carol Michelle Brinegar accepted Hopp’s plea and set his sentencing hearing for May 5, the Loveland Reporter Herald reported.
“I’m very disappointed,” Garner said after the hearing on Wednesday. “We’ve gone so far. There’s so much evidence that he should be going to trial. I don’t understand this. We don’t understand a lot of things. Our God is much greater and powerful than this, and at the end of the day he’ll see justice.”
A second former Loveland police officer, Daria Jalali, was also criminally charged in connection with Garner’s arrest, the Loveland Reporter Herald reported.
Jalali faces misdemeanor charges of failure to intervene in excessive use of force, failing to report excessive use of force, and official misconduct, the Denver Post reported.
She has not entered any pleas and is due back in court on April 26.
Garner settled a $3 million lawsuit with the City of Loveland in September of 2021.
The incident occurred in June of 2020, when Garner was arrested for allegedly stealing just under $14 worth of items from a Walmart store, KCNC reported at the time.
She was taken to the ground during the arrest, which the lawsuit claimed left her with a sprained wrist, dislocated shoulder, and a broken humerus, KUSA reported.
Garner was transported to Loveland police headquarters and did not receive medical care for several hours, according to KCNC.
Loveland Assistant Police Chief Ray Butler reviewed the bodycam footage and images from Garner’s arrest and concluded on Aug. 10, 2020, that the officers’ use of force was “necessary, reasonable, and within policy,” KCNC reported.
Sarah Schielke, the attorney representing Garner, filed the federal lawsuit in April of last year.
Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer, who recently accepted a position as chief of the Prescott Valley Police Department in Arizona, said he had not been made aware of any allegations of excessive force pertaining to Garner’s arrest prior to finding out about the lawsuit, KCNC reported.
The lawsuit also accused Loveland Police Sergeant Phil Metzler of trying to delete bodycam footage of Garner’s arrest, according to KCNC.
Schielke said records she obtained pertained to a bodycam video that was originally dated June 24, 2030.
According to the records, Sgt. Metzler deleted the 2030 date on July 16, 2020, and saved the footage as June 26, 2021, KUSA reported.
Schielke alleged the alteration was an attempt to hide the video.
Hopp and Jalali resigned from the department in April of 2021, the Loveland Reporter-Herald reported.
Loveland Community Service Officer Tyler Blackett, who helped book Garner into jail, also resigned, as did Sgt. Metzler.
Hopp and Jalali were both criminally charged in the weeks that followed.
Loveland City Manager Steve Adams said he hoped the multi-million dollar settlement, which did not include an admission of liability, would help bring Garner some closure.
Chief Ticer said he agreed that the officers used excessive force during Garner’s arrest.
“There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner,” he told KUSA. “We have agreed on steps we need to take to begin building back trust. While these actions won’t change what Ms. Garner experienced, they will serve to improve this police department and hopefully restore faith that the LPD exists to serve those who live in and visit Loveland.”