LLANO COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – A Llano police officer who has been suspended with pay is now under indictment, accused of tampering with evidence, among other things.
On Tuesday, a Llano County grand jury indicted Officer Grant Harden on six counts: two counts of evidence tampering, three counts of official oppression, and tampering with a government record. The charges include three felony counts and stemmed from a DWI and public intoxication investigation Harden conducted on June 20.
The indictment alleges Harden tried to “alter or destroy” a video and audio recording of the arrest of two individuals, a man and a woman. According to court documents, Harden either turned off the video and audio recording of their arrest or deleted a portion of the video.
Harden, “knowing that an offense had been committed, namely: official oppression or official misconduct or assault against [the woman]” tampered with the video recording, the indictment alleges.
Harden is also charged with assaulting and “using excessive force” against the woman during the June 20 arrest. The court documents indicate Harden knew arresting the woman on a resisting arrest charge was “unlawful.” Jail records show Harden charged the woman with assault on a public servant, resisting arrest, and public intoxication.
Harden was booked into the Llano County jail at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday and his booking sheet show he was released at 5:45 p.m. after posting a $9,000 bond.
KXAN contacted Harden on his cellphone Wednesday morning, but Harden did not answer. A message left on that line has not yet been returned.
Harden is set for arraignment in January. Llano Police Chief Kevin Ratliff says while Harden was originally placed on administrative leave last month, he has now been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. The future of his employment with the agency will be determined after the completion of the administrative investigation, said Ratliff.
“I have no statement on the six-count indictment,” said Ratcliff on Wednesday.
The attorney representing the woman in the case says they are not issuing a comment regarding the officer’s indictment.
Alleged Facebook Threats
KXAN spoke with Harden by phone on Nov. 25 after allegations that the Llano County Courthouse was evacuated Nov. 22 after the Texas Department of Public Safety sent a memorandum to Llano County-area law enforcement agencies, claiming Harden published a Facebook post perceived as a “threat” on the courthouse.
Ratliff said everything in the memo was “a lie.” Ratcliff indicated he posted lyrics from the Stoney Larue song, “Going Down in Flames,” which includes the lines, “If I’m going down, I’m going down in flames. From this moment on, ain’t nothin gonna be the same. One thing’s for certain, everybody’s gonna know my name,” could be the cause of the alleged threat.
Ratliff said he did not know who reported the Facebook posting to DPS, why the agency found it credible, or why the agency sent the teletype Thanksgiving Day.
The DPS message obtained by KXAN was sent from a DPS office in Austin Thanksgiving morning. The document identifies the subject of the communication as “Matthew Grant Harden” as a “Police officer with Llano PD.”
The document states Harden made a threat during the early morning hours. “… Harden has made Facebook posts with threats against anyone who comes in contact with him and that everyone will ‘Remember his name.”
The communication continues, “Harden is not allowed at the Llano jail and the Llano County Sheriff [sic] Office is refusing to accept any prisoners from him. Harden is not allowed in their facilities.”
Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn told KXAN on Nov. 25, was under investigation and had been banned from the sheriff’s office and the jail “for about six months.” That timeline is consistent with the date of the incident Harden was indicted on Tuesday.
Llano Police Chief Kevin Ratliff said he placed Harden on “paid leave” in November for “a completely separate incident that involves an outside agency.” Ratliff would not give details on what the separate incident involved at the time.
Llano City Council Investigation
Llano City Councilman Craig Bauman told KXAN he was aware of other allegations made against Llano police officers that became the subject of council discussions in November.
Bauman said he did not have any details on any of the allegations being investigated, but confirmed the Llano County District Attorney’s Office was actively investigating allegations involving “more than one” Llano police officer at the time.
Bauman said the city council is also conducting an “internal review” of numerous allegations of misconduct involving multiple members of the Llano Police Department detailed in a 25-page letter from a former Llano Police Department member, Bauman said.