On June 26, 2020 — the day 73-year-old Karen Garner was forcibly arrested by Loveland police officers — Reidesel Mendoza was “the sole person that did the right thing.”
Mendoza had stopped his car to confront the officers arresting Garner because “the way they were handling that situation was not the right way,” he said in an interview Saturday, after receiving a citizenship award for his actions that day.
“I tried to do what was right,” Mendoza said.
Garner — who has dementia — was accused of Walmart leaving that day without paying for $13.88 worth of merchandise, but staff stopper her and retrieved the items before she left. Garner was walking home when officer Austin Hopp stopped her. About 30 seconds after Hopp got out of his car, he forced Garner to the ground and tried to arrest her.
Another officer — Daria Jalali — arrived shortly after to help Hopp restrain Garner. Sgt. Philip Metzler arrived after the two officers got Garner in one of their patrol cars.
Mendoza saw how the officers were treating Garner and decided he needed to intervene.
“Do you have to use that much aggression,” Mendoza could be heard saying to Hopp in Hopp’s body camera footage, released to the public by an attorney who represented Garner’s family in a civil lawsuit filed against the city.
Hopp then told him to “get out of here, this is not your business,” and further explained, “this is what happens when you fight the police.”
Later, in a conversation between Mendoza and Metzler on the scene captured on Metzler’s body camera footage, Mendoza said, ““when you see a person walking and the next thing you see is a cop throwing them to the ground without her using force or nothing , what’s going to be your reaction?”
“I’m not sure but usually I would think that the police have a reason to arrest her,” Metzler replied, and repeatedly told Mendoza he didn’t have all the information so he can’t judge the officers’ actions.
“You may think you’re defending her but she’s the one that committed a crime,” Metzler said in the body camera footage.
Garner had her shoulder dislocated and arm fractured during the arrest, according to a civil lawsuit settled by the city with Garner’s family by the city for $3 million.
Hopp and Jalali were both criminally charged for their actions in this incident. Hopp was sentenced to five years in prison for second-degree assault, and Jalali was sentenced to 45 days in jail and three years of probation for failing to intervene.
In addition to Hopp and Jalali, Metzler and community service officer Tyler Blackett resigned from the department. Another officer, Paul Ashe, was fired as part of the investigation into officers’ actions during and after Garner’s arrest, but is suing the department for wrongful termination.
‘Everybody has the right to speak up’
Mendoza was commended for intervening in Garner’s arrest during Loveland’s Latine Heritage Month Celebration at Foote Lagoon on Saturday, by being presented a citizenship award.
“Everybody has the right to speak up,” Mendoza said after being presented the award. “… If you see something that is not right, you have the right to speak. That can change someone else’s life.”
The award was presented in part by the Community Trust Commission, which was formed by the Loveland city council to aide in rebuilding trust with the community and its police department.
Interim Loveland Police Chief Eric Stewart applauded Mendoza’s courage in stepping up that day, and said the public plays in key role in successful policing, referencing one of Robert Peel’s — who he said is considered the father of modern policing — principles: “The public are the police and the police are the public.”
“Clearly we can’t police without the public. We certainly didn’t do a great job that day,” Stewart said. “… I’m sorry we let you down that day.”
Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh thanked Mendoza for overcoming fear to do the right thing in intervening, something not everyone would do in a similar situation.
“You have my heartfelt appreciation and admiration,” Marsh said to Mendoza. “… I cannot thank you enough, for in that horrible day, you were the ray of hope, the ray of sunshine for Karen Garner. You were the sole person that did the right thing that day.”
This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Man who intervened in Loveland Karen Garner arrest awarded