A former officer gets 5 years for assaulting a woman with dementia during his arrest

A former Colorado police officer was sentenced to five years and three years of probation Thursday for assaulting a 73-year-old woman with dementia during her arrest on suspicion of stealing a $14 Walmart store.

The officer, Austin Hope, 27, formerly of the Loveland Police Department, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on March 2 in connection with assaulting the woman, Karen Garner, 75. She dislocated her shoulder and broke her bones when she was thrown to the ground and immobilized during her 2020 arrest.

Mrs. Garner’s attorney, Sarah Shelke, said in an interview Thursday that she was relieved by Judge Michael Berengar’s ruling of Larimer County Courthouse, and that five years “may be just the appropriate prison amount” for Mr Hope’s term.

“We’ve seen for a very long time, too many police officers receive special treatment every step of the way,” she said. “While the process here with Hopp was not perfect, I think the result we got in terms of criminal punishment was at least or in line with how ordinary citizens are treated.”

Hope’s lawyer, Jonathan Datz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

credit…Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, via The Associated Press

Speaking publicly about the assault for the first time during the hearing, Mr. Hope apologized to Ms. Garner and her family, according to the Denver Post. He said he did not act out of cruelty or anger during the meeting, but rather “misjudged” the situation.

“I am really ashamed of my actions,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Police camera footage released by Ms. Shilke last spring showed an officer grabbing Ms Garner on June 26, 2020, and throwing her to the ground. She was on her way home from a nearby Walmart store, where employees called the police because they said she walked out without paying $13.88 worth of things.

Ms. Garner, who has dementia and sensory aphasia, which hampers her ability to understand and communicate, forgot to pay for things, according to her lawyer. A lawsuit filed in April against the city of Loveland said the officers who arrested Mrs. Garner fractured her arm and dislocated her shoulder and that she did not receive medical attention for six hours.

In September, Loveland agreed to pay $3 million to Mrs. Garner to settle her claim against the city.

Another video, released by Garner’s attorney last spring, showed officers laughing at footage of Garner’s arrest. “I love it,” says one officer. “that is great.”

Mr. Hope resigned and another officer who arrested Ms. Garner, along with the community service official who had booked her and accused her of denying her medical care, resigned in April 2021. Mr. Hope was one of the two officers who faced criminal charges. The prosecution said that the second, Daria Jalali, was charged with not interfering in or reporting the case of excessive use of force. Gordon B. McLaughlin, Larimer County’s attorney, said her case is pending.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. McLaughlin said the issue was about more than just the use of excessive force.

“This case also had a lie, a cover-up, and, frankly, to me one of the most appalling things was the celebration that Mr. Hope participated in again at the police station in the holding area, laughing at what he had to say,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

He added, “This was someone on a journey of strength showing that he doesn’t care about the humanity of the citizens he has sworn to serve.”

Shellagh McNeill Contribute to research.

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