Arrest of Colorado Woman With Dementia Prompts Investigation

The video shows a 73-year-old woman, clutching wildflowers and her wallet, being thrown to the ground and handcuffed in Loveland, Colo., last year by police officers who suspected her of shoplifting items worth $13.88 from a Walmart.

The woman, Karen Garner, has dementia, a lawsuit says. Repeatedly, she cries out in pain and appears confused, telling officers she was “just going home.” She was pinned against a squad car, and her arm was twisted behind her back, breaking a bone and dislocating her shoulder, the lawsuit says.

After her arrest, she was taken to jail, where she was not given medical help until hours later, the lawsuit says.

Nearly a year later, the filing of the lawsuit and the release of the police body camera footage on April 14 is reverberating through the city, about 45 miles north of Denver, prompting multiple investigations, disciplinary action against the officers and scrutiny of the Police Department’s use-of-force and training protocols.

The district attorney for Larimer County, Gordon P. McLaughlin, said on Monday that, after seeing the video, he had requested a criminal investigation, to be assisted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the F.B.I.

Mr. McLaughlin took office in January, after his predecessor dismissed the misdemeanor charges against Ms. Garner, noting her dementia, a court filing shows.

Ms. Garner’s family said in a statement that the district attorney’s announcement was a “small, but long overdue, step in the right direction.”

In a statement on Monday, the city of Loveland also announced a separate investigation into whether the officers followed policy during Ms. Garner’s arrest, and said the police chief, Robert Ticer, would publicly address the City Council on Tuesday.

The city said in its statement that it had received “an abundance of telephone calls, emails, and social media messages from constituents deeply concerned about the events” cited in the lawsuit and about the video footage.

“The footage is difficult to watch and we understand the strong emotions evoked including the outrage, fear, and distrust,” the city said.

Justine Bruno, a city spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that the city’s investigation would start after the district attorney’s office investigation was completed.

The Loveland Police Department said last week that it had not received a complaint about Ms. Garner’s “serious injuries,” and that it learned about the allegations surrounding her arrest only after her lawyer, Sarah Schielke, filed the lawsuit and released footage from Walmart security cameras and from the officers’ body cameras.

The department said that it would review the images, documents and records compiled in connection with the arrest, and that it “shares with the community the concerns” about the video footage. It said it had put the arresting officer in the case, Austin Hopp, on administrative leave, and the assisting officer, Daria Jalali, and their supervisor, Sgt. Philip Metzler, on desk duty.

The three officers and the city of Loveland were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in United States District Court for the District of Colorado. It claims violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act and alleges use of excessive force and failure to provide medical care.

Lawyers for the defendants could not be immediately found.

The lawsuit describes Ms. Garner as “suffering” from dementia, disorientation and sensory aphasia, or impaired understanding of spoken or written speech. The case highlights the importance of training law enforcement officers for interactions with people who are “mentally disabled,” as Ms. Garner was described in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Garner went to a Walmart store near her home in Loveland on June 26 and walked out with soda, candy, a T-shirt and wipes without paying $13.88. Employees stopped her, took the items and called the police after she left, refusing her offer to pay, the lawsuit says.

A Walmart spokesman said in a statement that the store had called the authorities only because Ms. Garner “forcibly removed” an associate’s mask.

On her walk home, she picked wildflowers along the road. When Officer Hopp pulled up behind her, put on his lights and told her to stop, she turned, shrugged and looked up at him with what appeared to be a smile, before turning to walk away, the suit says.

The video shows him grabbing her, bending her arm behind her back and throwing her to the ground. “I am going home,” she said repeatedly, face down in the grass, struggling and clutching her wallet. Officer Hopp leaned into her back with his knees, the lawsuit says.

After she was handcuffed, he “threw her over the hood” of his car, where she repeatedly said that she was going home and “looked frantically around her, not understanding what was going on or why,” the lawsuit says.

When Officer Jalali arrived, she and Officer Hopp used “excessive force in seizing Ms. Garner, handcuffing her unduly aggressively, breaking her arm and dislocating her shoulder, hog-tying her, and then forcing her to remain handcuffed and restrained for an excessively lengthy period of time,” the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit says that, at one point, as Ms. Garner cried out and began to “crumble to the ground in pain,” Officer Hopp asked, “Are you finished?” Then Officer Jalali said: “Stand up! We’re not going to hold you!”

Sergeant Metzler, who responded to oversee the arrest, deactivated his body camera, did not create a report and authorized the deprivation of her medical care, the lawsuit alleges.

In addition to scrapes and bruises, Ms. Garner had a fractured humerus, the bone that joins the shoulder to the elbow; a dislocated shoulder and a sprained wrist, the lawsuit says. She was taken to a hospital from jail, more than six hours later.

Throughout the ordeal, Ms. Garner repeated “I’m going home” 38 times, the lawsuit says. She also asked fearfully about her credit card, a concern her family said was linked to her dementia. And she told the officers, “You hurt me.”

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