A former Loveland police officer has been sentenced to jail and probationfor failing to intervene when another officer forcefully arrested and injured 73-year-old Karen Garner in June 2020.
Daria Jalali, 28, was immediately taken into custody after her sentencing Friday to serve a 45-day jail sentence. After that, she will be on probation for three years.
Jalali pleaded guilty in June to failing to intervene, a Class 1 misdemeanor. Two other misdemeanor charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
According to Colorado state statute, police officers who witness other officers use excessive force are required to report that incident to an immediate supervisor. The legal requirement for officers to intervene in these incidents came out of the police accountability bill, Colorado Senate Bill 217, passed in 2020 in response to nationwide calls for police reform following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Jalali is the first police officer in the 8th Judicial District to be charged with this crime, 8th Judicial District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin said.
“What happened June 26, 2020, was an abysmal failure. It’s incomprehensible,” Judge Joshua Lehman said while sentencing Jalali. “It was an abysmal failure of that duty to protect and serve.”
Jalali was the second officer to arrive at the scene of Garner’s arrest. When she arrived, officer Austin Hopp — who has also since left the department and has been sentenced to prison for felony assault in this incident — had Garner held against his police car, as seen in Hopp’s body camera footage.
Lehman said he had not seen any of the videos released to the public in this incident because they had not been introduced into the criminal case. The first video Lehman said he watched was during Friday’s sentencing, when Assistant District Attorney Matt Maillaro played a portion of Jalali’s body camera footage showing her arriving on scene and assisting Hopp with arresting Garner.
“This really does make your stomach clench when you see it,” he said.
In the footage played in court, Jalali appeared to arrive on scene as Hopp pushed Garner against his patrol car to restrain her, at which point Hopp pushed hard enough to break Garner’s shoulder, according to a civil lawsuit filed by Garner’s family, which was later settled by the city of Loveland for $3 million.
Garner has dementia and did not understand what was happening or how to answer the officer’s questions, her family has said. She also repeated “I’m going home” several times instead of answering Hopp and Jalali’s questions.
Jalali is heard in her body camera footage asking Garner if she needs medical attention several times, but Garner doesn’t respond or asks for her credit card. Jalali told the court that the department’s policy is to only call for medical attention if there’s an obvious injury or the arrestee asks for it.
“This was a person who was clearly confused, clearly didn’t understand what was going on,” Lehman said.
Jalali is also heard in her body camera video saying “a little bloody, a little muddy, that’s how it works,” when asked if she was injured, clarifying it was Garner’s blood on her.
“Ms. Jalali was given a badge to protect and serve, and that’s not what she did,” Garner’s daughter Allisa Swartz said.
Jalali said in a statement to the court that she didn’t hear the pop from Garner’s injury at the scene or in watching Hopp’s body camera footage shortly after, and she didn’t notice an injury to Garner’s left shoulder and arm — where Hopp was holding her — because she was focused on holding up Garner on her right side.
“I should have known something had caused her pain or distress,” Jalali said. “I should have confronted officer Hopp immediately.”
But she never did, and Lehman said she had many opportunities to do so and get Garner the medical attention she clearly needed.
“That’s what we need from our law enforcement, just the ability to stand up to your fellow officer and say, ‘no, what are you doing,’ ” Lehman said. “This is a situation where the obligation to do that was painfully obvious.”
Jalali maintained she didn’t know Garner was injured when she was detained in the booking area at the police department. Garner told Jalali her shoulder hurt, but Jalali said she assumed Garner didn’t like her handcuffs and was being uncooperative.
Lehman said he didn’t buy it and told her, “you knew this was a bad incident.”
Jalali told Hopp “this is going to turn into something” after they watched his body camera footage together in the booking area, Lehman said.
“Ms. Jalali had every opportunity to stop the cruelty and do the right thing,” Garner’s son John Steward said.
Jalali’s attorney, Anna Geigle, said some of the blame for Jalali’s inaction falls on the Loveland Police Department and a previous department Jalali worked for, both of which continued to push Jalali through trainings despite Jalali’s repeated poor performance on written tests and in meeting physical requirements.
“Exceptions are continued and repeatedly made for Ms. Jalali,” Geigle said. “… Ms. Jalali really didn’t know any better.”
A neuropsychological evaluation Jalali underwent in October also partially explains her inaction, Geigle said. The evaluation showed she has deficits in processing verbal and visual information.
“Her actions in this case were not malicious, they were not intentional and there was not a sinister motive behind her inaction,” Geigle said.
But Maillaro said Jalali “saw the pain, she saw the injury,” and she “had every opportunity to stop the cruelty.”
Maillaro acknowledged part of the issue may be neuropsychological or involve a lack of training, but that her inaction shows at least some malicious intent.
“This is beyond a failure to intervene, to report, this is cruelty,” Garner’s daughter-in-law Shannon Steward said.
As part of her sentence, Jalali has also agreed to not work in law enforcement again. She has lost her Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification because of this guilty plea.
She will also be required to do 250 hours of community service and complete a mental health evaluation and any recommended treatment. Lehman said he hopes the mental health treatment can also help Jalali handle how this case has impacted her. She has faced harassment and threats, has moved and switched jobs several times, her attorney said.