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Violent arrest of 73-year-old with dementia was “reasonable” and “necessary,” Loveland’s assistant police chief concluded

Three Loveland police supervisors signed off on an officer’s use of force after he threw a 73-year-old woman with dementia to the ground in June 2020, according to an internal police report released Tuesday by the woman’s attorney.

Assistant Chief of Police Ray Butler watched the body camera footage of now-former Officer Austin Hopp violently arresting Karen Garner — conduct for which Hopp now faces a felony assault charge — and wrote that Hopp’s use of force was “necessary, reasonable and within policy,” according to the internal police report.

The thorough vetting through multiple levels of police leadership appears to contradict Chief Robert Ticer’s assertion that police did not become aware of the severity of the incident until Garner filed a federal lawsuit in April 2021. The officer broke Garner’s arm and dislocated her shoulder during the arrest, according to the lawsuit.

“We found out, nearly eight months later, that this had occurred,” Ticer said during a May 19 news conference. “We took swift action at that point… I don’t know if we would have found out about that without the federal lawsuit. Perhaps if it would have come in through a different channel — but that’s how we were notified.”

Loveland police spokesman Tom Hacker said Ticer was unavailable for comment Tuesday, and emphasized that the actions of police after Garner’s arrest are subject to an ongoing  third-party investigation.

Ticer previously told the Loveland Reporter-Herald that police did not have “information about injury” during the supervisory review of Hopp’s actions. He later said he did not view the body camera footage until April 2021.

Hopp’s June 2020 use-of-force report indicates that Garner suffered scratches to her wrists and chin. It also notes that she complained of shoulder pain and may have suffered a shoulder injury. Hopp did not include any information about a shoulder injury in his initial reports after the incident, according to an affidavit that details the criminal charges against him.

Garner’s attorney, Sarah Schielke, said the supervisors’ approvals show a problem within Loveland police that goes beyond one out-of-line officer, and that anyone watching the video can tell the officer went too far.

“This is not an Austin Hopp problem, this is a Loveland police leadership problem,” she said.

Sgt. Phil Metzler, Lt. Robert Shaffer and Butler all signed off on Hopp’s use of force in August 2020, two months after the incident occurred, according to the document released by Schielke.

Metzler, who also responded to the scene, wrote that he’d reviewed the body camera footage, photos and reports, and found the “minor force that was used was reasonable and appropriate for the situation.”

Schielke on Tuesday also released body camera footage that shows Metzler talking with a bystander who witnessed Hopp throw Garner on the ground. The man stopped to raise concerns about the officer’s actions and asked to speak to the officer’s supervisor.

Metzler, who was the supervisor, dismissed the man’s concerns and raised his voice in a subsequent conversation, the footage shows.

“I would caution you next time if you want to videotape and make sure things are OK, that you stay a little further back, because had this turned into a violent encounter and she had pulled a gun, you and your family would have been in the mix, OK?” Metzler said, and pointed at the man’s chest. “Because you put them there.”

He told the bystander he could file a complaint at the police station or online. Metzler, who has not been charged with a crime, has been on paid leave from the police department since mid-April, Hacker said.

Hopp and Daria Jalali, the second officer who was involved in Garner’s arrest and who also faces criminal charges, both resigned from the force in April. A third officer, Tyler Blackett, resigned after video showed he laughed about the incident with Jalali and Hopp.

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