By Dillon Thomas

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– For the first time since the controversial arrest of Karen Garner in June of 2020, former Loveland Police officer Austin Hopp addressed the court and the Garner Family. Moments before being sentenced to five years in prison and three years of probation, Hopp told those in the courtroom that he was remorseful and regretted his actions the day he broke Karen Garner’s arm and separated her shoulder.

FORT COLLINS, CO – MAY 5, 2022: Former Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp enters the courtroom for his sentencing hearing Thursday, May 5, 2022, at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins. Hopp was senteced to five years in prison with three years of mandatory parole for his guilty plea to second-degree assualt stemming from his 2020 arrest of Karen Garner. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

“I haven’t been able to truly share how I feel over my actions,” Hopp said before the judge, citing the investigation. “I am sorry for the harm that I caused, for the pain and suffering of Ms. Garner and for the damage to the community and the public trust. I made a terrible mistake that day, a horrible one.”

Hopp, now a convicted felon, told those in the courtroom that he was not in his regular state of mind at the time of the controversial arrest. He pleaded for the judge to see his humanity in her sentence, acknowledging that it was ironic given his inability to do the same to Garner in 2020.

“I didn’t do it because I was angry or to be cruel. I honestly misjudged the situation. I did not understand what was happening,” Hopp said. “I responded so wrongly and so poorly.”

“At that time my life was completely in shambles. My world was falling apart. I was distracted and unfocused at work. My decision-making abilities were so far gone and damaged,” Hopp said. “I should not have been on the street that day.”

Hopp apologized for his actions several times to the Garner Family, which was sitting in the first row just moments after being given the opportunity to address Hopp as victims.

“It was not a question of if something was going to happen but when,” Hopp said. “I missed all the clues that Ms. Garner needed extra care. I feel stupid, I feel foolish that I missed it.”

Karen Garner

Karen Garner (credit: Garner Family)

The family, and the prosecution, accused Hopp of still neglecting to understand what his actions did to both Garner and her loved ones. Even the judge, prior to handing down the sentence, accused Hopp of not realizing what he did even after years of reflection.

“At the time I thought what I was doing was right, but I know that that it wasn’t. It was horrible. It breaks my heart to think of what Ms. Garner went through,” Hopp said. “I understand the community outrage. I agree with it. I would be angry too if this was my mother or grandmother I would’ve done the same thing.”

“The sad reality is nothing I do today can undo the reality you’ve experienced,” the judge told the Garner Family. “We are all human and we have all made mistakes. This case is not about a mistake. This is about a young officer who used his power and authority to show off his toughness.”

Hopp stood quietly at the podium alongside his attorney as the judge spoke.

“I do think you’re sorry but I don’t think you get it,” the judge said. “From the second you got out of the car you escalated for battle and every decision you made after that compounded this tragedy. Your decisions and actions were deliberate, deceitful and calculated…Your actions harm public confidence.”

Hopp apologized multiple times and repeatedly said he was prepared to accept whatever punishment was handed down by the judge.

“I’m not proud of the officer I became and I’m not proud of the officer I was that day,” Hopp said. “I am truly ashamed of my actions, I wish to everything that I could take them back. Not to get out of this right here.”

“I want to apologize to the police profession. I disgraced it,” Hopp said. “I’m ready and I want to take responsibility for my actions.”

“It was a big relief. Something I feel like we are finally able to now start closure,” said John Steward, Karen Garner’s son. “We finally felt like he was being held accountable. Today, the DA really stepped up to the plate. I really felt like they were wanting justice for my mom and it happened.”

FORT COLLINS, CO – MAY 5, 2022: Former Loveland Police Officer Austin Hopp is taken into custody at the end of his sentencing hearing Thursday, May 5, 2022, at the Larimer County Justice Center in Fort Collins. Hopp was senteced to five years in prison with three years of mandatory parole for his guilty plea to second-degree assualt stemming from his 2020 arrest of Karen Garner. (Jenny Sparks/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin told CBS4 the sentence of five years in prison should send a message to both law enforcement officers and the greater community.

“Excessive use of force will not be tolerated. Treating members of our community inhumanely will not be tolerated. Lacking to get medical attention will not be tolerated, and celebrating such behavior will not be tolerated,” McLaughlin said.

“God is bigger than all of this and he proved that yet again to me today. It felt like justice was served, and he’s there for us,” Steward said.

Dillon Thomas