73-year-old woman with dementia files civil rights lawsuit after arrest

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LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — A federal civil rights lawsuit against a Colorado police department has been filed on behalf of a 73-year-old woman who was arrested last year.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by attorney Sarah Schielke, stems from the arrest of Karen Garner on June 26, 2020. It claims violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and alleges the Loveland Police Department failed to train on the use of force on disabled, unarmed citizens.

“Nearly 20 percent of all adults of Ms. Garner’s age or more are suffering from some form of dementia,” said the attorney.

According to Schielke, Garner was arrested for leaving Walmart and forgetting to pay for $13.88 worth of items. All charges were later dropped.

In body camera footage, an officer can be heard saying, “Ma’am, I don’t think you want to play it this way,” as the officer appears to stop his patrol vehicle and approach Garner.

“You just left Walmart, do you need to be arrested right now,” asked the officer. Garner, seemingly confused, repeatedly replied “I’m going home.”

Within a few seconds, Garner was on the ground being handcuffed. Moments later, a second officer arrived.

The lawsuit stated that when one officer “called out to her to stop and talk to him, and when she indicated she did not understand him, he violently assaulted her, twisting her arms behind her back, throwing her to the ground and handcuffing her.”

Garner was walked to the patrol car in cuffs, repeatedly saying, “I’m going home,” according to the lawsuit. Both officers allegedly took her out of the patrol vehicle, put her on the ground and used restraints to tie her feet together.

The lawsuit states that medical attention was not offered to Garner despite her repeated complaints of pain. Garner suffered a dislocated shoulder and a fractured wrist, according to her attorney.

“Despite the visible dislocation of her arm from her shoulder, and Ms. Garner’s repeated complaints of pain while on scene and in the several hours she remained in their care and control that followed, none of the defendant officers nor anyone else at the Loveland Police Department ever sought medical care for Ms. Garner, in violation of Loveland Police’s written policies regarding use of force and injuries,” according to the lawsuit.

“No one ever obtained mental health assistance for the observably mentally disabled Ms. Garner,” the lawsuit stated. “Instead, the officers handcuffed her to a cell at the station for over 2 hours, keeping her isolated and terrified, in extreme pain, and then deposited her at the Larimer County jail where they lied and said she was uninjured, which ensured she continued to not receive medical treatment for another 3 hours.”

Image of Karen Garner’s arm. (Credit: THE LIFE & LIBERTY LAW OFFICE OF SARAH SCHIELKE)

The lawsuit said that jail deputies later realized Garner was injured and transported her to an emergency room.

The Loveland Police Department said in a statement that it had not previously received a complaint regarding Garner’s arrest but that it is investigating the allegations.

“LPD takes very seriously the allegations concerning the arrest of resident Karen Garner,
and shares with the community the concerns about video images that became public on
Wednesday,” the department said.

The department said the arresting officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, and the assisting officer and an on-scene supervisor have been reassigned to administrative duties.

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