Harden & Ratliff in Llano

by Marty Kelley

Score one for justice, maybe: The out of control police department in Llano, Texas, has been hit with so many indictments for official misconduct that there’s almost nobody left on the force to handle the important work of getting donuts and harassing people who get mouthy to cops. In a rare case of holding small town law enforcement to account, five officers — including the town’s police chief — have been indicted for abuse of power in a string of incidents going back to the spring of 2016. Even better, the whole mess is explored in detail by Austin’s KXAN-TV in a refreshingly in-depth reportfrom a local teevee station. Hooray for local prosecutors and local journamalists!

The grand jury indictments stem from several incidents in which police just plain lost their shit while strutting around, dress’d in a little brief authority and the certainty THEY AM THE LAW:

In December, Llano Officer Grant Harden was indicted on six counts; including charges of tampering with dash camera footage of a DWI stop, tampering with the video of an arrest, using excessive force against a woman he was arresting and unlawful arrest of that woman on charges of assaulting a public servant and resisting arrest.

Harden was later indicted a third time, charged with assaulting another woman prosecutors said he “unlawfully” charged with resisting arrest on April 26, 2016.

Yeah, KXAN went straight from Harden’s first to his third set of indictments, because the second one involved a whole raft of additional cops gone bad. They did not want to cover those because its so bad its shocking!   In May of 2017, Harden and three other Llano officers — including Police Chief Kevin Ratliff — showed up at the door of Cory Nutt to arrest him after he cussed at Harden for driving too fast through his neighborhood, and then having the effrontery not to step out of his home to face justice. Here’s body-cam video of Harden threatening to get Nutt fired from his job at a local utility for being a very bad person and also drunk in public — which is kind of a difficult charge to prove when a guy is standing inside his own damn door, but Harden says at one point Nutt had been out at the curb “dropping the f-bomb” at him.

Golly, one of the officers, Aimee Shannon, offers to light him up with a taser if he refuses to show her ID — but also warns him to keep his hands in sight, so she has a great excuse either way. Luckily, Nutt is white, so that set of contradictory commands wasn’t followed by her shouting “GUN GUN GUN!” and blowing him away.

We also like the part where Harden threatens to call Nutt’s boss and get him fired, since obviously that’s just plain good law enforcin’.

Eventually, Nutt stepped out of the house after Officer Aimee Shannon points a taser at him and the officers threaten him with it, “Do you want tased,” a cop asks Nutt, “She’s fixing to tase you, dude.”

“Please don’t,” Nutt told the officer while the red laser light on the end of Shannon’s stun gun bounced between Nutt’s crotch and abdomen. Nutt eventually steps outside where he’s handcuffed and taken to jail.

Nutt’s attorney, Austin Kaplan confirmed the charges were later dropped against his client.

Harden, Shannon, Chief Ratliff and another cop were all indicted in January on charges related to abusing their authority in the arrest; Harden and Ratliff were fired and the other two are still suspended pending the outcomes of their cases. In July, a jury found Ratliff guilty on three misdemeanor charges — one of “tampering with a government record” for filing a report with knowing omissions in it, and two counts of “official oppression,” which we have to say is one awesome name for a criminal count. His lawyer told KXAN it was all just terrible, terrible, because these are “complicated constitutional and legal principles that lawyers, judges and constitutional scholars cannot even agree on” and by golly, if you go accusing good cops of being oppressive just for throwing their weight around, “you are soon going to run into a situation where officers will hesitate to act” and before you know it a cop or an innocent civilian is gonna get kilt.

In the latest outlandish escapades out of Llano, a Llano police officer, Mark Burke, and a Llano County Sheriff’s Deputy, Duncan Roberts, were indicted August 13 with three counts of “official oppression” each — seriously, every criminal code everywhere needs to use the term — after they responded to a report of domestic violence with excessive force. Roberts had initially responded to the call at a home outside town, and Burke arrived as backup. They met the woman who’d complained outside the home, and she told them her domestic partner, Clay Holley, had tried to keep her and her kids from leaving after an argument, then gone back into the home and locked the door. Pretty important: At this point, the woman is not in the house, and she’d told Roberts and Burke Holley hadn’t hit her.

So of course when Holley refused to open the door, Officer Dipshit and Deputy Fuckhead then tried to pick the lock and ultimately broke the door down, because damn it, they were “conducting an investigation.” Yup, there’s video for this one, too:

Warrant? What the hell is a warrant? And no, we don’t see any crying children being hostage-rescued here, either.

We do appreciate Llano City Manager Scott Edmonson, who is a veritable firehose of clichés in an interview with KXAN:

It is what it is and you just move forward and go on […] I haven’t got into it in too much detail yet. I mean, we’re just dealing with it right now […] I don’t want to get into that because I think that’s going to go towards the individual cases and I don’t want to go there […] know I’m not answering your questions, and I’m not going there.

Oh, yes, and when reporters asked him if there was a “climate of corruption” in local law enforcement, he replied, “Uh, no.” He followed that up with a doozy, too!

When asked if Edmonson could be certain of that given the city’s done nothing to investigate that angle, Edmonson replied, “Can we be sure of anything?”

Life is a mystery. Everyone must stand alone. I hear the cops call my name, and it feels like home…invasion.

Will send you more when its available.