The city of Lovelands, Colorado announced Monday that it is opening an independent probe into police officers’ treatment of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia who had walked out of a Walmart without paying for some items worth roughly $14 before returning them to employees outside. She was forcibly arrested in an incident that resulted in her arm being broken and her shoulder dislocated, reports the Washington Post. Following days of outcry after the release of bodycam footage of the event, Colorado’s Eighth Judicial District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said that his office’s critical response team will also investigate whether there was “any potential criminal behavior” by the Loveland officers. The Loveland Police Department has also suspended Officer Austin Hopp, who initially handcuffed Garner; two others who were on the scene, Officer Daria Jalali and Sgt. Phil Metzler, have been placed on administrative duty while the investigation is carried out.
Garner’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city last week. In the lawsuit, her family argued that a mental health crisis team would have been a more appropriate response than a violent arrest. In addition to dementia, her family said, she has sensory aphasia, a condition that leaves her unable to understand speech or to communicate easily and that these conditions left her unable to understand the police officers’ demands when they attempted to stop her and ordered her to stop struggling. While the city said that its third-party investigation, which will likely be carried out by Loveland’s insurance carrier, will determine whether the officers broke policies in the arrest, McLaughlin’s office said in a statement that their separate criminal probe will “not only ensure there is accountability for any potential criminal behavior but will also give our community the information and framework with which to evaluate our performance and have faith in the results of our investigations.”