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.
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.