A former Loveland police officer could spend up to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting a 73-year-old woman with dementia while arresting her for allegedly walking out of a Walmart with $13 of merchandise.
The former officer, Austin Hopp, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to second-degree assault, a felony, in Larimer County District Court. The plea deal leaves sentencing to Judge Michelle Brinegar, who could sentence him to between two and eight years in prison.
“I plead guilty,” Hopp said.
The victim’s family opposed the plea deal in court, telling the judge that they have asked for a trial since their first conversations with the district attorney’s office. The woman, Karen Garner, suffered a fractured arm and dislocated shoulder because Hopp assaulted her. Garner’s dementia symptoms have worsened significantly since the June 2020 assault and she can no longer live independently, the family has said.
“This does not bring justice for Karen,” Shannon Stewart, Garner’s daughter-in-law, told the judge Wednesday.
Prosecutors with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney’s Office originally charged Hopp with second-degree assault, attempt to influence a public servant and official misconduct. The original charges carried a mandatory sentence of between 10 and 32 years in prison, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Maillaro said.
Maillaro said they did not agree to the plea deal because of a lack of evidence in the case. He did not offer a reason as to why they agreed to the deal.
“This is not shrugging off responsibility to justice, to public safety or the victim’s family,” he told the judge.
Brinegar accepted the plea deal, noting that the agreement seemed reasonable and that vast majority of cases are resolved via pleas.
Hopp did not speak during the hearing except to enter his guilty plea. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 5.
Prosecutors criminally charged Hopp and another former Loveland police officer, Daria Jalali, in May 2021 after a civil lawsuit filed by Garner’s family against the department brought the violent arrest to light, sparking intense local and national media attention.
The assault and a video showing Hopp laughing about the incident while Garner sat in a nearby jail cell prompted calls for reform into the department. Documents later released showed multiple supervisors in the department signed off on Hopp’s use of force on Garner.
Prosecutors charged Jalali with three misdemeanors: failing to report excessive use of force, failure to intervene in excessive use of force and official misconduct. Her case remains open and she is next scheduled to appear in court on April 26.
Jalali and Hopp resigned from the Loveland Police Department two weeks after the lawsuit was filed. The city settled the lawsuit for $3 million in September.
Garner’s family continued to call for Loveland police Chief Bob Ticer‘s resignation after the settlement. Ticer said at the time that he would not resign.
Ticer accepted a job on Monday as the chief of the police department in Prescott Valley, Arizona.
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