Justice for Karen Garner

The short version

Five years in prison plus three years of mandatory parole. That’s the sentence of a former Loveland, Colo., police officer who, in 2020, violently arrested and injured 73-year-old Karen Garner for shoplifting $15 worth of items from a local Walmart. Garner has dementia and sensory aphasia. Confused, she thought she had paid for the items, and they were recovered by Walmart employees before she left the store.

Then-officer Austin Hopp stopped Garner as she was walking home carrying a few flowers she had picked along the way. But she was unable to understand his orders. He threw her to the ground, twisted her arm so violently that he broke it, dislocated her shoulder, and sprained her wrist. He subsequently left her in a cell for a number of hours without medical attention.

From NBC:

State District Judge Michelle Brinegar said Hopp used his “position of power and authority to show off his toughness, disregard any sense of humanity, displayed an alarming degree of criminal thinking and caused a great deal of harm and trauma.”

The City of Loveland settled for $3 million in September, but no amount of money could make up for the trauma that woman and her family suffered. Prior to the assault — and it was an assault — Garner was able to live independently. Afterwards, she could not. The emotional harm was irreparable.

To say I was traumatized by the original new reports is hardly an overstatement. I’m only a few years older than Garner and was horrified to see a woman that age treated that way — by a police department just 40 miles from here. A few minutes ago, when Hopp’s sentence was announced on the evening news, I cheered out loud. Prison can’t change what happened. But it’s a step in the right direction.

The longer version

11 thoughts on “Justice for Karen Garner

  1. Almost worse was the video of the police officers at the station laughing at the video of Karen being thrown to the ground. It made me realize how much of society views seniors as contemptible.

    1. Contemptible, worthless, expendable. More than a little disturbing to someone who turned 79 just a month ago. I’ve always been treated with respect — but I was a lot younger then.

  2. Exercise of authority by one person over another all too often promotes cruel behavior. The famous Milgram experiment showed that many people are willing to commit injustice when directed by an authority figure. Similarly, some people, as in this instance, zealously overact when given authority over others. It happens not only in the ranks of police but in the military and colleges (fraternities.) I saw numerous instances of this when I attended the Naval academy. Many intelligent people have a mean streak. Seems like there ought to be a way to purge the bad apples from the candidates. The penalty in this egregious case is certainly warranted but, sadly, I think it’s unlikely to change human nature.

  3. The officers actions defy common sense — she was clearly a harmless little old lady. No effort seemed to have been made to interact with her in a reasonable manner. I wonder if the Walmart people made any effort to talk with her and might have noticed she had some issues? I wonder if the officer and the others saw the error of their ways?

    1. I too wondered about the Walmart people. Several stories mentioned she was a regular at the strore, so you’d think they were aware of her dementia. And they got their items back before she left the grounds. Yet they must have called the police. And for the police to treat a frail old woman like that is just horrifying.

... and that's my two cents