Updated: Oct 30, 2021
(original article posted on the Colorado Switchblade)
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Colorado Switchblade would like to welcome journalist, writer, publisher, investigator, and death penalty mitigation expert, Susan Waller. Susan brings decades of experience in investigative writing to our coverage of local and regional news stories. Please help us welcome her to the Estes Valley.
A settlement has been reached in the civil lawsuit filed against the Loveland Police Department for the 2020 violent arrest of an elderly dementia patient, just hours after an additional body camera video was released. In lieu of admitting liability and halting further litigation from a federal lawsuit, the department has agreed to pay $3 million to Karen Garner, a 73-year-old dementia patient arrested after allegedly shoplifting approximately $13 of goods from Walmart.
A videotape of the arrest, taken from the body camera of Sgt. Philip Metzler, on June 26, 2020, was released Tuesday. A witness to the arrest questioned Metzler about the violence of the arrest, which Metzler downplayed, seeming to blame the victim for the assault. The video showed Ms. Garner being thrown to the ground during the detainment. She suffered a broken arm and a dislocated shoulder in the incident.
Sarah Schielke, a criminal justice attorney, retained by Ms. Garner's family, announced the settlement details Wednesday at a press conference in front of the Loveland Police Department.
"Thirteen dollars and 88 cents is the business interest that Loveland believed was worth inflicting this atrocity," Schielke said. "Today, they pay Ms. Garner $3 million. The amount of this settlement is likely record-breaking for a civil rights case that doesn't involve death or permanent disfigurement. Not only does its amount send a powerful message, but the speed in which it was obtained does as well — just four months since we filed the lawsuit."
Three Loveland police officers resigned within a week of the filing of the federal lawsuit in April 2021. Austin Hopp, the arresting officer and accompanying officer Daria Jalali, quit the department, as did community service officer Tyler Blackett. Hopp and Jalali still face pending criminal charges in the case.
Ms. Schielke, surrounded by the daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandson of Ms. Garner, called for the resignation of Chief Bob Ticer, Sgt. Philip Metzler and Loveland Mayor Pro Tem Don Overcash.
"This incident shocked us by exposing us to the lowest form of human behavior and decency, particularity by people that should be respected, people that should know how to show respect," she said. This settlement brings relief to the family, Schielke said, but it does not change the culture of the Loveland police department.
She noted that on Tuesday night, a 19-year-old man with intellectual disabilities died after Loveland police shot him in mid-August.
"The only way it's going to stop is to change the culture. The only way to change its culture is to replace the leadership," Schielke said.
"These men are the seeds that planted the rotten tree that is the Loveland Police Department," the attorney said. "They are the good ole boys, they are the old guard, and in order for this community to actually heal, in order for these incidents to stop happening, they have to go."
Schielke vowed to donate $50,000 of her own money to any dementia or Alzheimer's charity of Ticer's choice if he resigned or was terminated within the next 30 days.
"That's justice to this community," she said. "That's the change they deserve. It's the change they've been demanding. And it's the closure and peace you (Ticer) personally owe them."
Loveland Police Chief Bob Ticer, who did not attend the press conference, has vowed to restore the police department's reputation. "There is no excuse, under any circumstances, for what happened to Ms. Garner," he said.