Outside law enforcement and prosecutors will investigate whether a Loveland police officer should face criminal charges for forcing a 73-year-old woman to the ground and allegedly fracturing her arm while arresting her on charges of attempted theft of $13 of merchandise.
Eighth Judicial District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin announced his office would use the district’s critical response team to investigate the incident.
The team of investigators from 10 area agencies in Larimer and Jackson counties is generally used to investigate police shootings. According to the team’s memorandum of understanding, the Loveland Police Department will not participate in the investigation of its officer, said Jodi Lacey, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
“Involved and investigating agencies have agreed that an independent criminal review is appropriate,” a news release from McLaughlin’s office states.
Loveland police officer Austin Hopp approached Karen Garner on June 26 after employees at a Walmart called to report that Garner tried to leave the store without paying for a T-shirt, a soda, a candy bar and wipes.
The employees made Garner return to the store and leave the items but called police to report the incident. Hopp found Garner walking along a road nearby.
Garner has dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to communicate and understand, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week about the incident.
Hopp forced Garner to the ground within 30 seconds of contacting her, body camera footage released by Garner’s attorney shows. Hopp and another officer, Daria Jalali, then held Garner against a police car. The officers fractured Garner’s arm, dislocated her shoulder and left bruises and scrapes, according to the lawsuit.
“I’m going home,” Garner said repeatedly as the officers arrested her, the video shows.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Garner. The police department placed Hopp on leave last week after the lawsuit made the incident public while investigations continue and re-assigned the two other officers to desk duty.
If prosecutors do not charge the officers involved, they will issue a letter examining the incident and explaining their reason for not filing charges, Lacey said. Prosecutors are required by state law to issue such letters after police shootings, but are not required to use a critical incident team or issue a letter in investigations of other police force.
“The robust, unbiased and transparent procedures used in the 8th Judicial District CIRT protocol will not only ensure there is accountability for any potential criminal behavior but will also give our community the information and framework with which to evaluate our performance and have faith in the results of our investigations,” the district attorney’s office said in the news release.
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