Loveland community members gather at Loveland Police Department for “Justice for Karen Garner” event

Screams for justice and songs of love rang out in central Loveland on Saturday, as a crowd of community members gathered to demand justice for Karen Garner and support her and her family.

Garner has reached national attention after a lawsuit was filed on her behalf after she was arrested by Loveland police in 2020. Five LPD members were named in the civil rights lawsuit, and after the surfacing of video footage from Garner’s time being held at the LPD, three have resigned.

During a press conference Friday, chief Bob Ticer announced that officers Austin Hopp and Daria Jalali as well as community service officer Tyler Blackett, all three of whom were named in the lawsuit, were no longer with the department. It was later announced that the three had resigned.

Longmont resident Morgan Goldschmidt, who created the event, said she initially started the Facebook page between a few of her friends to discuss what was happening with Garner’s case. She said when she watched the first video, released in the original lawsuit, she was appalled.

“It showed a culture within (the) police department that it is not just a life or death decision they have to make,” she said. “(Garner’s) is a face that I will never be able to get out of my mind, and I think that is the same for a lot of people.”

Goldschmidt said that while she has no organizing experience, she wanted to show the community’s backing of Garner’s family. She said after the event that while she is unsure exactly how many people showed, over 100 marked themselves as going on the Facebook event and 486 marked themselves as interested.

Jen Castaneda, a Loveland resident who helped Goldschmidt plan the event, said Garner’s case is very close to her heart, as she has had family members who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s. She said that the Loveland community deserves to feel safe where they live and from the officers who are sworn to serve them.

“This is our town,” she said. “We want to be treated with respect and dignity and I want to see that happen not just for Karen but for everyone here. I want to see justice for Karen. I want to see all the people involved gone so we can start fresh and rebuild and bring love back to Loveland.”

Castaneda also thanked all those who attended, saying the event and the support it showed was critical to “our environment and our society.”

Demonstrators gathered at the corner of Monroe Avenue and 10th Street to share their experience with the Loveland Police Department and, above all else, show their support for Garner and her family.

Many of those gathered wore purple to recognize elder abuse awareness and flowers were handed out to be placed in front of the police building. Signs asking “What if it was your grandma?” or calling for the removal of other officers and city officials involved peppered the crowd gathered on the hill. Among the crowd gathered were Loveland mayor Jacki Marsh and councilwoman Andrea Samson.

For many of those gathered, the event was a way to get their voices out not only of their displeasure with the LPD but to show Garner they have her back.

Danielle Hastings said she also has family members who have suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s. She said she believes that police officers, city officials and all those who work in Loveland should have better training so they can spot the signs of someone with dementia and provide better resources to those people.

“I hope it shows Karen she is fully supported and loved and she is not alone,” she said. “I hope it shows the city of Loveland and all the officials that this is unacceptable and something needs to be done right away. It is beautiful the whole community is here in support of this in such a peaceful, loving way.”

Taylor Box and Mia Trujillo, who are friends with Garner’s granddaughter Jessa Swartz, said they showed up to support Garner not just as a friend’s family member, but as a resident of the city.

“This is my hometown, this is my friend’s grandma and I am a former caregiver for dementia,” Trujillo said. “There are a lot of reasons to be here today; more reasons than not, that is for sure.”

“It hits really close to home,” Box said. “When you can see how out of it she is whenever he is talking to her, it should be clear something is going on there and they shouldn’t just arrest her and throw her to the ground and dislocate her shoulder and break her arm.”

Shane Ritter, a community member who also recently spoke at the Loveland City Council meeting Tuesday from a letter signed by other community members, said he was at Saturday’s event for Garner and to stand up to the “systemic abuses” of the LPD.

He said for Garner and her family, he hopes the event showed the support the community has for her. For the community as a whole, he hopes it provided a deeper solidarity and unity toward the cause of “taking responsibility for our city government.”

“We do have the power to change council members, to hold our council members to task in who they employ as a city manager, who does or does not perform adequately, which directly reflects who our chief of police is going to be, which indirectly reflects the culture of the police department,” he said. “All those things need changing; this is a good first step.”

After meeting on the corner of Monroe and 10th, the crowd marched to the Loveland Police and Courts Building, chanting along the way for peace and justice. Once at the department’s front doors, the crowd continued to cheer as signs and flowers were placed on the ground outside the entrance.

As cheers died down and the event came to a close, longtime resident William King sang “Amazing Grace” and the crowd joined in.

“I hope this is a way for … all of Karen’s family to see how much people care,” Trujillo said. “It is not something that is going to be held in silence, it is not going to be something that is swept under the rug. It matters to everyone, not just her family.”

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