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Former Loveland officer pleads guilty to assault related to Karen Garner's arrest

Austin Hopp faces two to eight years as a result of the deal but could get probation.

LOVELAND, Colo. — The former Loveland Police officer who was charged with three counts including assault in connection with the arrest of an elderly woman with dementia pleaded guilty to a single charge of second-degree assault, a class four felony, on Wednesday morning.

The standard sentence is two to eight years, but it is an open sentence, meaning the judge could sentence him to probation at the hearing set for 1:30 p.m. May 5.

An attorney released footage of Karen Garner's June 26, 2020 arrest in April of last year as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit. It alleges that Garner was forcibly pushed to the ground and that during the arrest she suffered multiple injuries. Those injuries included a dislocated shoulder, a broken humerus and a sprained wrist.

Hopp and former officer Daria Jalali were charged in May 2021, almost a year after the arrest of the then-73-year-old Garner.

Hopp was initially charged with assault, attempting to influence a public servant and official misconduct.

Garner's daughter-in-law Shannon Steward spoke during court Wednesday on behalf of the family and said when they first met with prosecutors last May, they felt the charges were "appropriate" and had one request, which was no plea deal.

When the family was approached last week regarding the deal, she said the family asked for a week to consider the implications of a trial, the deal and other impacts.

Shannon Steward said after mulling things over, the family came to the same conclusion that they didn't want a deal and hoped to proceed to trial.

"I’m really disappointed that the district attorney would offer a plea," said John Steward, who is Garner's son, last week. "Caught us off-guard, shocked, disappointed."

In court, Shannon Steward said they felt deals were typically offered if there wasn't enough evidence, which the family said was "overwhelming" in this case.

Credit: Loveland Reporter Herald
FORT COLLINS, CO - MARCH 2, 2022: Former Loveland police officer Austin Hopp walks to the podium before pleading guilty to felony assault Wednesday, March 2, 2022, for his connection to the 2020 arrest of Karen Garner during a hearing at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins. It is a lesser charge than he originally faced with a less severe sentence. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

Prosecutors countered by saying that they were not at all concerned about their ability to prove their case and instead the decision was based on "multiple factors" and still provided accountability, although with a less severe sentence.

As originally charged, prosecutors said Hopp would have faced a mandatory sentence of 10 to 32 years.

"Today our office secured a guilty plea to Class 4 Felony Assault for former Loveland officer Austin Hopp related to his arrest of Karen Garner," DA Gordon McLaughlin said in a tweet. "This result brings significant criminal accountability for his assault of Ms. Garner & shows such abuse of power will not be tolerated."

"Our department appreciates your pursuit of justice," the Loveland Police Department said in a tweet in response. "What happened to Ms. Garner is a stark reminder that no police officer is above the law.  We appreciate the DA's efforts in pursuing justice for Ms. Garner and her family."

> Below: Body camera footage shows the arrest of the 73-year-old. This footage has been edited by the law firm representing Garner. (Warning: The content in this video is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers.)   

9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson said under Colorado law, victims and their families have certain rights, but vetoing plea deals is not one of them. Robinson said that's probably a good thing.

"Victims are not in a position to know what prosecutors might know about the difficulty in proving particular charges," Robinson said.

Garner was arrested while walking home along Mountain Lion Road. She had just come from a nearby Walmart where she attempted to leave without paying for about $14 worth of items, the lawsuit says. The 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office said that Garner's misdemeanor case was dismissed.

According to the arrest affidavit in the case, while Garner was in custody, Hopp told Jalali, "I thought I broke [Garner's] shoulder, did you hear it pop?"

Neither officer offered Garner medical care, despite the fact she repeatedly said her shoulder hurt, according to the affidavit.

Credit: LCSO
Former Loveland police officer Daria Jalali

Court records also show Jalali faces the following charges:

  • Peace officer: Failure to report use of force
  • Peace officer: Failure to intervene
  • Official misconduct

She's due in court in late April.

Hopp, Jalali and community service officer Tyler Blackett resigned after the incident came to light.

Sgt. Phil Metzler, who also responded to the scene of Garner's arrest, remained with the department until September of last year. He resigned after video was made public that appeared to show him dismissing excessive force concerns made to him by a man who witnessed Garner's arrest.

RELATED: Loveland sergeant whose body camera footage showed him dismiss witness concerns to Karen Garner's arrest resigns

Loveland's Police Chief said the department was first made aware of the allegations of excessive April 14, 2020, and contacted the district attorney's office about it.

Garner's family announced a settlement of their lawsuit with the city of Loveland last September for $3 million.

RELATED: 'There needs to be change': Karen Garner's family says $3 million settlement is only a start

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