Ex-Cop Who Joked About Rough Arrest Gets 5 Years

Family says Austin Hopp broke 73-year-old Karen Garner's arm during 2020 arrest
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2021 4:26 PM CDT
Updated May 6, 2022 7:06 AM CDT
Suit Over Dementia Patient's Arrest Settled for $3M
This undated photo provided by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office shows Austin Hopp in Fort Collins, Colo.   (Larimer County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

(Newser) Update: "We cannot allow him to get a slap on the wrist for breaking an arm," Karen Garner's daughter-in-law said at a sentencing hearing for Austin Hopp Thursday. The former Loveland, Colorado, cop was sentenced to five years in prison for assaulting Garner, who has dementia, during a rough arrest in 2020, USA Today reports. Garner, then 73, suffered injuries including a broken arm and dislocated shoulder but did not receive medical care for hours. Surveillance video showed Hopp joking about the arrest with other officers. Hopp pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in March under a deal to avoid a trial that could have led to a maximum sentence of 30 years. At Thursday's hearing, he said he had made a "horrible" mistake. Our original story from September 2021 follows:

A Colorado city has settled a federal lawsuit over a violent arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia for $3 million. Karen Garner's family had filed the suit accusing Loveland and its police officers of violating her civil rights, CBS reports. Loveland's city manager apologized to Garner and her family. "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," Steve Adams said. Garner was arrested in June 2020 after leaving a Walmart, accused of shoplifting items costing $13.88.

Loveland officers stopped Garner as she was picking wildflowers on her walk home and threw her to the ground, handcuffing her. The lawsuit said police broke her arm and dislocated her shoulder in the process. Three officers involved in the arrest, which was captured on body camera video, have resigned; surveillance video showed them watching the video later and laughing. An outside investigation has been completed, but the findings have not yet been released, per the Denver Post. Allisa Swartz, Garner's daughter, said Tuesday that the family settled the suit because Garner's health is worsening. The money will be used to pay for her mother's round-the-clock care, she said.

But the settlement will not provide "full justice," the family's lawyer said. She wants the officers involved jailed and the police chief to resign. "Those in power in Loveland have created a culture of police officers who have no respect, no care, no compassion for the people they're supposed to be keeping safe," Sarah Schielke said. The chief said that there was no excuse for what the officers did to Garner and that the department has agreed on what needs to happen "to begin building back trust," agreeing with Garner's daughter that changes need to be made. "I don't want to see this happen to anyone else's families, again, I don't want to see it," Swartz said. (Read more police brutality stories.)

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