Three Colorado officers resign after arrest of woman with dementia

In this image taken on June 27, 2020 and provided by the Loveland Police Department, Ms Karen Garner asks for help from her injuries after her arrest. PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOVELAND (NYTIMES) - Three members of a Colorado police department have resigned after they arrested and booked a 73-year-old woman with dementia who was thrown to the ground and handcuffed after she was suspected of shoplifting, officials said on Friday (April 30).

The woman, Ms Karen Garner, was pinned against a squad car, and her arm was twisted behind her back, breaking a bone and dislocating her shoulder during the roadside arrest in Loveland, Colorado, last June, a lawsuit says.

Body-camera footage of the arrest and footage from Walmart security cameras that was released by Ms Garner's lawyer in April prompted widespread outrage, as did another video that showed three police officers laughing at a station as they watched the footage.

The district attorney for Larimer County, Mr Gordon McLaughlin, has said that, after seeing the body-camera footage, he requested a criminal investigation, to be assisted by the US Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado and the FBI.

On Friday, Loveland's police chief, Mr Robert Ticer, said that two police officers who had arrested Ms Garner - Mr Austin Hopp and Ms Daria Jalali - as well as a community service officer, Mr Tyler Blackett, who had booked Ms Garner, were "no longer employed" by the Loveland Police Department.

A city spokesman later clarified that the officers had resigned.

Master Sergeant Philip Metzler, who was supervising Mr Hopp and Ms Jalali, has been placed on administrative leave, the chief said.

All four officers were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed by Ms Garner, which claims violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and alleges use of excessive force and failure to provide medical care.

A fifth officer named in the lawsuit, Sergeant Antolina Hill, is still assigned to her duties at the Police Department, Mr Ticer said. The lawsuit contends that Ms Hill and Mr Blackett "were both aware of Ms Garner's injuries and need for medical treatment and personally complicit in the continued denial of that critical care".

At a news conference on Friday, Mr Ticer acknowledged that Ms Garner's arrest had stirred anger locally, nationally and internationally.

"Our goal at the Loveland Police Department has always been to make our community proud," he said. "We failed, and we are very sorry for that."

It was not immediately clear if the officers who resigned had lawyers. Mr Eric Ziporin, a lawyer who is representing the city in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to an e-mail.

Ms Sarah Schielke, a lawyer for Ms Garner and her family, said the resignations were not enough.

"They were not fired. They resigned," she said in a statement. "Despite what the world has seen they did on not one but two horrifying videos, they will still receive benefits paid by Loveland."

Mr Ticer, asked about footage of Ms Garner's arrest, said at the news conference: "I share the community's concerns on this. It hurt to see that."

Asked about the officers who were seen laughing at the footage, Mr Ticer said: "That is not the Loveland Police Department. The Loveland Police Department is comprised of men and women that are out there taking calls for service right now, that are working very hard and honouring our community."

Ms Schielke criticised those comments and said Mr Ticer should resign.

"He is wrong," she said in an interview. "It not only is the Loveland Police Department, but it's his Loveland Police Department. He's responsible for what happens in it."

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