COLORADO (NYTIMES) – A video released this week shows Colorado police officers laughing at footage of their department’s roadside arrest of a 73-year-old woman with dementia.
The woman, Karen Garner of Loveland, Colorado, walked out of a Walmart last year without paying for US$13.88 (S$18.41) worth of items. Police officers broke a bone in her arm and dislocated her shoulder, according to a lawsuit she filed against the city and the officers.
In the newly released footage, an hour-long video uploaded to YouTube by the law firm representing Garner, three Loveland police officers laugh while they watch footage of Garner’s arrest.
“Hear the pop?” one officer says.
“What did you pop?” asks another.
“I think it was her shoulder,” the first officer responds.
On Sunday (April 25), Garner’s lawsuit was amended to add more officers as defendants.
“Can you stop it now?” one officer says as they watch the body camera footage of the arrest. “I hate it.”
“I love it,” another officer says, with a laugh. “This is great.”
Before watching the footage, one officer asks another if he had read Garner her Miranda rights. The officer says he had not.
“I can’t believe I threw a 73-year-old on the ground,” one officer says.
The Loveland Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about the footage on Tuesday.
In a statement last week, the department said that it was investigating the episode and that the arresting officer had been placed on administrative leave. An officer who assisted in the arrest and an “on-scene supervisor” were reassigned to administrative duties, the department said.
“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,” the department said.
On Tuesday, Garner’s relatives said they were “physically sickened” by the arrest.
“The Loveland Police treated her like an animal,” the family said in a statement. “They laughed and fist-bumped while they were doing it. They reveled in her pain and did nothing to address it. They relished in stripping her of all dignity.”
The video was released this week by Garner’s lawyer, Sarah Schielke, who said in an e-mail that Garner’s family had hired a sound engineer to enhance audio on the booking videos from inside the station that showed officers watching body camera footage of Garner’s arrest.
Schielke said the officer pointing out the popping sound was Austin Hopp, who arrested Garner on June 26 as she was picking flowers on the side of a road on her way home from a nearby Walmart.
The police had been called after Walmart employees said Garner had walked out with US$13.88 worth of items without paying. According to a Walmart spokesperson, she had also removed an employee’s mask.
According to Garner’s lawsuit, filed on April 14 in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, Hopp stopped Garner, pushed her to the ground, handcuffed her and pinned her against his vehicle. The lawsuit says he twisted her arm behind her back, breaking a bone and dislocating her shoulder.
Hopp; Daria Jalali, an assisting officer; Sgt. Philip Metzler, their supervisor; and the city of Loveland were named as defendants in the lawsuit, which alleges violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well as use of excessive force and failure to provide medical care.
“The officers laugh, fist-bump and celebrate both the excessive force used on Ms. Garner and their intimidation of the citizen that attempted to complain about it,” Schielke said of the video from the police station.
“Body cams are my favourite thing to watch,” one officer says in the video. “I could watch livestream body cams all day.”
Based on the new footage, Schielke amended the lawsuit to add new defendants: Tyler Blackett, a Loveland community service officer, and Sgt. Antolina Hill, a Loveland Police officer.
The amended filing alleges the two “were both aware of Ms Garner’s injuries and need for medical treatment and personally complicit in the continued denial of that critical care.”
Garner, who has dementia and sensory aphasia, which impairs her ability to understand and communicate, was not given medical attention for more than six hours, the lawsuit alleges.
Eric Ziporin, who is representing the city, said on Tuesday he had no comment about the litigation.